Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 4 January 2014 / 3 Shevat 5774

Envious Acquaintance

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Anonymous

Dear Rabbi,

I have a friend who seems to have everything go right for him, whereas for me it seems that everything that could go wrong does. Quite frankly I'm jealous of him and it's affecting our friendship. What should I do?

Dear Anonymous,

I think everyone can relate to having these types of feelings to various degrees over varying periods of time, either towards others in general, or toward a specific person. So don't get down over it.

We have to realize that G-d runs the world, and He decides who will "succeed", to what extent, and for how long. He also knows what true success is for each and every person, and it's not the same for all.

You have to try your best within normal means to secure your needs and attain your aspirations. This involves defining acceptable and realistic goals. Then rely on G-d to send you what's right for you at the right time.

What seems good for someone else is not necessarily ultimately good for him; and even if it is good for him it might not be good for you, or at this time. Therefore there's absolutely no room for comparing yourself with others.

This reminds me of a true story I heard from the descendant of a man who left Europe for economic reasons a few years before WWII. He ended up in Columbia with another Jewish friend, and together, they eked out a meager living by peddling in the streets of Bogotá.

After a while, in desperation, they decided to buy lottery tickets. When the friend saw the number on his ticket, he decided he didn't like his – it was an "unlucky" number. The first young man then offered to swap tickets if it would make his friend happy.

They switched tickets and, lo and behold, the friend wound up with the winning number, while first young man ended up with the "unlucky" number which he got from the friend.

The friend with the "winning" number used the money to return to Europe, but unfortunately lost his life in the Nazi invasion of Hungary. The young man who relinquished the "winning" number in lieu of the "losing" one initially remained poor and stranded in Bogotá, but eventually became quite successful, and in the meantime he was able to provide for the rescue of most of his family to Columbia, and eventually to the U.S.

This is an example of a seeming winner turning out the loser, while the loser is actually the winner. We certainly don't want your successful friend to stumble, but rather hope for a win-win scenario for the both of you. The point is just that one never knows. So you just have to try your best, without comparing or competing, and count your blessings while praying that you receive from G-d what's right for you in the right measure at the right time.

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