Feb 18, 2017

Hard to Relate

There is a famous Ibn Ezra on the dibra of lo sachmod - "Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor." He says, a commoner does not think he will marry the princess because he knows the princess is out of his league. We only desire things we can relate to. If something is completely beyond us, we don't consider having it.

The Ibn Ezra says that if we consider that people have the things they have because Hashem wants them to, then we will not covet things that other people have.

Can Americans relate to the Ibn Ezra's analogy? I don't think so. American kids are raised with the message: You can be whatever you want to be.  You can be an astronaut. You can be the one to find the cure for cancer. You can be president of the United States. There is nothing you can't have or be if you want it enough.

This message has been internalized in the frum mindset.  You can grow up to be a gadol who will be on people's walls here . And why can't a middle class - lower middle class - or poor family have a fancy wedding like a rich person who can afford it? Back in the shtetl you can be sure that the cobbler never dreamed of making a wedding like the town parnas, but nowadays, with everyone equal and supposedly deserving of the same things as everyone else, why shouldn't the poor do and have what the rich do and have? The Ibn Ezra's understanding of lo sachmod is much harder for us to grasp.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, that mashal is foreign to this generation. Modern western secular society worships independence and personal achievement as the highest good and denigrates any and all differentiation between people based on inherent status or yichus as "inequality", "discrimination", and "racism".