Thursday, July 31, 2014

Va'etchanan 74 - Love People , Use Things

In the portion-parasha of the week Moses repeats the 10 commandments with some minor changes. The last 2 commandments deal with the prohibition to ' do not covet' –' lo tachmod ' , … and do not ' desire '- lo titaveh - your fellow's house, wife, …., etc. The Shulchan Aruch explains that the Torah's command – do not desire =lo titaveh  is prohibiting merely   thinking, wanting and scheming as  how to pressure one's fellow into selling the item, even if one does not follow through with his plan. Do not ' covet ' – lo tachmod prohibits active efforts - cajoling, pressurizing, or embarrassing someone into selling him something that the owner really does not want to sell. What about the 'poor man'  who has his eyes on  the money of some rich miser  who certainly is not so happy to part with his money.? Is the poor man transgressing – your shall not covet and desire your fellow's money ?
The root causes of these sins are  ' chemdat mammon –and z'nut – a desire and craving for money, fame, pleasure and women etc. In fact, the reason why these 2 commandments are brought at the end of the 10 commandments is to teach that a strong passion for money and women can be the trigger for a person transgressing all of the 10 commandments. So why did the Torah not state the prohibitions in general terms - Do not covet or desire money, pleasure and women. ? The desire for money, pleasure  and fame = the yetzer ha'ra – the evil inclination,  is crucial for motivating people to get married , develop the world and pass on their genes to the next generation. And the Torah acknowledges its importance when its creation on the last day of creation is called very good and not just good. However the Yetzer Ha'ra= the evil inclination needs to be channeled into the right areas. In this week's portion God promises his people that they are going to inherit a viable economic structure – great and good cities that you did not build, houses filled with good things that you did not fill, orchards and vineyards that you did not plant etc But  God warns them of dangers of the materialistic values and the  pagan religious culture associated with the economic system, something that will cause them to forget God. We too tend to be influenced by the power of capitalism, the society of  luxury and its message – Love things and Use people. We place great value on what we own. People will use others to gain a certain objective and will always see others in a "what can you do for me" way. And we believe that the  pursuit of money, material goods, fame and pleasure will not only bring us happiness , but  also bring relief from suffering and unhappiness. Money can indeed relieve suffering when there is poverty or a true material need , but when money, material goods, fame and pleasure become an end in themselves, they bring misery too. People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values. Researchers  looked into whether more sexual variety led to greater well-being. Across men and women alike, the data show that the optimal number of partners is one. A  study  tracked  the success of 147 recent graduates in reaching their stated goals after graduation. Some had “intrinsic” goals, such as deep, enduring relationships. Others had “extrinsic” goals, such as achieving reputation or fame. The scholars found that intrinsic goals were associated with happier lives. But the people who pursued extrinsic goals experienced more negative emotions, such as shame and fear. They even suffered more physical illnesses and complaints . The problem with extrinsic goals – money, pleasure and fame  is  that a person's intrinsic needs like deep relationships  are not being met. There is temporary pleasure and satisfaction that is addictive. He needs to taste more pleasure and fame to compensate an ' emptiness and unhappiness.' Mark Spitz says he suffered an incredible emptiness after the 'high' of winning 7 Olympic gold medals was gone. Fame is not only a problem for Celebs . With Facebook , Blogs, likes, friends and visits, a minor form of fame-seeking is within each person's reach. And that makes us unhappy – we share our fake lives and get upset when we do not have  not enough friends, likes or hits like the other guy. We love things and Use people.
What about the 'poor man'  who has his eyes on  the moneyof  some rich miser  who certainly is not so happy to part with his money.? Is the poor man transgressing – your shall not covet and desire your fellow's money ? R' Isaac Sher explains that the poor man wants to find favor in the eyes of the rich man. He wants relationship and love. He wants the rich man do help him because he loves people. His eyes are not on the money , but on the heart of the rich man.
The Dalai Lama gives good advice , it is better to want what you have than to have what you want. And this will help us to Love People and Use things and not Love things and Use People.

No comments:

Post a Comment