Even though we’re 30 days before Pesach, this article is not about Pesach cleaning. Rather, it’s about a little housekeeping of our own minds. You see, quite often we imagine things to be problems that aren’t really problems, and with a little practice we can keep a clear mind.
One evening, a tutor was coming to our home. Having just returned from a trip, we still had things to be unpacked. My wife was mortified that the house would be a mess (defined as any item being more than 3 centimeters from its designated space). I assured her that the tutor wouldn’t mind. When the woman arrived, my wife apologized. The tutor said, “I didn’t even notice it. If it isn’t my mess to worry about I don’t see it.” I concurred, “Like when someone else’s kid is misbehaving. You’re just glad it isn’t yours.” She knew the feeling, “Exactly!”
It’s a great truism that when you don’t have to deal with the problem, it’s a lot easier to miss it. For example, if your child isn’t allergic to something, you are less likely to notice when that allergen is around. My wife, for example, can spot a mango at 1,000 yards while someone else would easily serve it to my daughter (who is allergic to them) and comment to her about how tasty it is. Even if you’re aware of it, it won’t offend your sensibilities like it will someone to whom it really matters, like when someone forgets to check whether the snack they sent into school is nut-free.
When someone has financial woes, or shidduch issues, or no children, those of us who don’t share that challenge may thank Hashem that we don’t, but we don’t dwell on it constantly.
So why is it that when someone else has something good, it can be on our minds excessively? If we see someone with a lot of money, and I mean a lot of money, we wonder why they deserve it. We wonder why we weren’t gifted with great wealth. If it’s a test, it’s one we’d like to take!
When you see someone with a fancy car, or a good-looking, or kind or intelligent spouse, or a lovely home, it sticks with you more than if you see someone driving a jalopy or with a loud-mouth husband. But remember, just as it isn’t your mess, the rest of the package isn’t yours either!
You shouldn’t be noticing it because it isn’t part of your world. The Orchot Chaim LaRosh writes that a person should accustom himself to not look at something that isn’t his. Don’t look at someone else’s house, or wife, or job, or car or anything that belongs to someone else. Why?
Well, besides for the fact that it borders on one of the Ten Commandments, it’s just a waste of time and energy. It’s like growing cobwebs in your mind to think about something that isn’t yours and isn’t supposed to be yours.
At a fancy resort hotel, a woman passed another woman in the lobby. She couldn’t help but notice the giant diamond pendant the woman was wearing. “That’s a beautiful diamond!” she exclaimed.
The woman replied, “Yes, it’s the Krupnik Diamond.”
“Oh!” squealed the other woman. “Like the Hope Diamond? Does this one also have a curse?”
“Absolutely,” said the pendant-wearer with a deep sigh, “Mr. Krupnik!”
If you saw someone with a shiny, state-of-the-art electronic wheelchair and you can walk on your own two feet, would you be jealous? Of course not!
The mistake we make is thinking that what others have would be good for us. But it’s not. It’s like a pair of shoes that are the wrong size. There’s nothing to be jealous of because they’re not a good fit for us.
Chazal tell us that just as we bless God for the good, we should bless Him for the bad. I suggest the opposite too. The same way we bless Him for not having given us the problems we see others having, we should bless Him for not giving us the good things He gave to others that wouldn’t be right for our needs and for giving them what’s good for them.
We are all keenly aware of the difficulties in our lives and the good in others’ lives. If we can only turn that around and be aware of what we have that’s good and be sensitive to the hardships others face, we’ll be able to “bless the mess” and be happy—because we know it’s ours.
Jonathan Gewirtz is an inspirational writer and speaker whose work has appeared in publications around the world. You can find him at www.facebook.com/RabbiGewirtz, and follow him on Instagram @RabbiGewirtz or Twitter @RabbiJGewirtz. He also operates JewishSpeechWriter.com, where you can order a custom-made speech for your next special occasion. Sign up for the Migdal Ohr, his weekly PDF dvar Torah in English. Email [email protected] and put Subscribe in the subject.