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Envy can lead to the violation of Ten Commandments

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By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO–“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbors house, his field, his slave, his maidservant, his ox, his
donkey, and all that belongs to your neighbor”
 
Chapter 14 of the Orchos Tzaddikim tells us that envy is the worst of sins – so severe, that one who is caught in the grips of envy is
liable to violate all of the Ten Commandments.  The Orchos Tzaddikim illustrates this with the following parable:
 
There once were two next-door neighbors who had a wall separating their dwellings. One of the men envied his next-door neighbor’s  wife and possessions. One day he heard his  neighbor telling his wife that he was about to leave on a business trip. He and his wife wished each other farewell and he set off on his
journey.
 
What did this wicked man do? He waited till Friday night when everyone was asleep in their own homes and no one was around to  see. He broke through the wall between their  dwellings, transgressing the commandment “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”
 
Against her will, he had his way with the woman, violating her and violating the commandments “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” He  then eyed the house and began to gather some things to steal.
 
At this point she shrieked and screamed, so he killed her, thereby transgressing “Thou shalt not kill.” He made off with the stolen  property in violation of the commandments “Thou
shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors possessions.”
 
His parents got wind of this and confronted him. As they gave him rebuke, he not only failed to heed them – he actually struck them  physically, transgressing the commandment
“Honor thy father and thy mother.”
 
He was eventually brought to court where he testified that the articles that he took were his all along. He stated that the neighbor  refused to give them back to him, so when he
became aware that burglars broke the wall and killed the woman; he too entered through the hole in the wall, seizing the opportunity  to retrieve his possessions. Thus he
transgressed “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
 
After that point, wherever he would go, he would swear in G-d’s name, to anyone he saw and to anyone who would listen to him, about  his innocence and righteousness,
transgressing “Thou shalt not take the L-rd’s name in vain.”  Eventually it became clear to everyone that he was a guilty liar. Out of  embarrassment he fell out of society and got
involved with a very bad element to the point that he denounced G-d altogether, transgressing “I am the L-rd thy G-d.” Before long he  even worshiped idols, transgressing “Thou
shalt have no other gods before me.”
 
All of this was precipitated by envy. Envy can cause a person to throw away the entire Torah.
*
Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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