It’s a hot, humid day in the middle of summer. Out from the ice cream parlor walks a fellow with a waffle cone, briefly escaping the oppressive temperatures as he enjoys his frosty delicacy.
Of course, you are inspired to want one for yourself. You check for your wallet and realize that, sadly, you left it at home. Your ice cream dreams are brought to a screeching, disappointing halt. Now, you are left with just pure envy of your friend’s good fortune.
Could anyone blame you for wanting the same cooling treat as your friend, or even jealousy for his ice cream cone?
Yet, G-d famously proclaimed in His final words at Mount Sinai, “Do not desire your friend’s house.. his wife.. and anything that your friend has.” How could G-d instruct us not to even want what others have? It’s challenging enough not to take what belongs to others, but is it reasonable to expect us not to even desire them?
To answer this, consider that there are many things around us that we can’t afford or will never attain, which we have no real desire for. Saudi princes drive luxury cars made of solid gold. Are we jealous? Not really. Do we fume with jealousy as Lebron James slam dunks his way past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record? We know that such possessions or achievements are so completely out of our league, that we don’t seriously consider them for ourselves.
The challenge, then, is to not be jealous of things that seem somewhat attainable. How do we curb those desires? It boils down to basic faith. If we remember that whatever success we’ve had in our efforts to achieve and acquire are only because it was the will of G-d that we succeed, then all else is beyond our grasp. It’s not meant for us, its not good for us, and it’s simply unattainable. G-d didn’t allot for you that pair of shoes, that straight-A daughter, or those Super Bowl tickets. They are out of your league. He gave you the gifts you have now, and will grant you many more in the future. At Sinai he asked us to remember He’s taking care of us, and our desires beyond His limits, are not for us. We can be happy with the blessings we have, but also happy for our ice cream slurping friends. (Based on the classic commentary of Ibn Ezra)
לא תחמוד is not the same as לא תרצה. It’s a major distinction. The first is about wanting that exact “ice cream cone” that is in the hands of someone else. The second is about wanting something similar to what someone else has.
This can be negative or positive. If someone has Torah knowledge, for example, it is usually considered inspiration when you see and want something similar.
In לא תחמוד the other guy ends up losing what he had. Not so when talking about רצון.
Thank you for sharing your comments and for clarifying that point. I believe you’re correct that Lo Sachmod concerns wanting the actual thing that your friend has, and it’s okay to want to purchase something similar for yourself. In the case where you are unable to purchase it for yourself, or you don’t plan to, and you remain desirous of the thing that your friend has, that would be Lo Sachmod, at least according to the Ibn Ezra, the Rambam, and others who understand this prohibition as a restriction on our emotions. According to the Rambam it seems you would have to start thinking of a plan of how to get it from your friend. There are major opinions in Jewish law that write that there’s no violation unless you pressure your friend to give or sell the object to you.
One can learn more about this on our website here https://torah.org/learning/business-halacha-5757-vol1no39/ and here https://torah.org/learning/jewish-values-donotcovet-1/