I am No Longer Jealous

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Shelach 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

I try so hard, but I do not seem to succeed at anything. I am not talking about academic success or professional success. I gave up on that a long time ago. I am talking about success in Torah learning, Mitzvah observance and good character. I am simply running in place. The same spiritual difficulties I experiences a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, I still have now.
I really try and I don’t succeed. For others, everything is easy. Why was I created to be such a sad sack? It’s aggravating. It’s depressing. It makes me despair. It makes me sad. It’s frustrating. I am jealous of others. Yes, I am jealous. I know that isn’t right: so suggest something else for me!
It’s really not a fair race. I feel myself in a dark room while others are in a room full of light. They march forward in security and happiness, with everything open before them, and I trudge along, stumbling, zigzagging, getting lost and confused.
Such was my attitude for a long time. For many years. I would grade myself compared to others, and emerge the loser each time. I was a chronic loser.
Then, one day, a brilliant idea popped into my head. I’m not brilliant, but the idea was brilliant, a gift from heaven. I would stop grading myself against others, and would start grading myself against myself. Since then, my life has become heaven. True, my achievements are beneath those of my peers, and my talents and abilities are second-rate as well. Yet in terms of my abilities, perhaps I surpass my peers. The secret is this: I’m doing my best.
That’s the secret. I didn’t invent it myself. Rather, I found it in the Mishnah Berurah at the start of the Shulchan Aruch (1:12). It’s right there at the beginning – I’m not really capable of moving much farther than that. There, at the beginning of the first chapter, it says, “In G-d’s eyes, everything depends on one’s doing one’s best.”
Since then I am “happy with my lot”, and not just in the material sense of Avot Chapter 4, but also in the spiritual sense of Avot Chapter 6, referring to Torah and mitzvot, character, and serving G-d. I discovered that G-d is not achievement-oriented. He does not judge man according to results but according to his efforts – “According to the pain, so the reward” (end of the fifth chapter of Avot).
If my friend succeeds much more than me, so what?! “A lot or a little – the main thing is to have heavenly intent” (Berachot 17a). And that is precisely what I do – the best I can, with heavenly intent. Yes, I try. I run. “You should run to a light-weight mitzvah as much as to a heavy-weight mitzvah, for you do not know what reward awaits mitzvah observance” (Avot, the beginning of Chapter 2). The reward is for the running!
I am no longer jealous of anyone. If G-d ordained that such is my lot, it is a sign that that is precisely what I need. “No man can touch what is prepared for his fellow, even to the extent of one hair’s breadth” (Yoma 38b, quoted in Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 11, regarding jealousy). “Each shall keep to his own camp and his own banner” (Bamidbar 1:52).
True, I am living fulfillment of “He has made me dwell in darkness” (Eichah 3:6), so everything is that much harder. Yet quite the contrary, every little thing that I succeed in doing is enormously precious in G-d’s sight. Every little corner of light carries greater weight than the achievements of my peers in their rooms awash with light.
So very many times I felt myself too far away. I felt I could not connect myself to G-d, that my very ability to feel was blunted – compared to my peers who experience and taste all of G-d’s goodness. Now I understand that the opposite is the case. This is an opportunity for me to serve G-d with sincerity, not so that I can attach myself and experience excitement, but for the sake of G-d, and for His sake alone. Not for me. It is all for G-d’s sake. I don’t have much, but that little bit that I do have is all for G-d. I am no longer jealous. I am happy.
Thank you G-d, for giving me this soul.