The chachomim say that one of the lessons that we learn from the story of Yosef and his brothers is that you shouldn’t show favoritism to one child over because that’s what caused the whole Golus Mitzrayim. Does that apply even if you want to give something to somebody’s else’s kids?
The principle of being careful, avoiding things so that children shouldn’t become jealous is an important principle, yes. Unless you’re doing it for a purpose to encourage virtue. Let’s say if a talmid is able to learn very well and you want to give him a prize lifnei rabim. So if you’re doing it l’shem shamayim, that’s something else. Sometimes we have to do things that might cause middos raos in other people – but it’s l’shem shamayim, so it’s not a problem.
I’ll give a mashal. Suppose you’re praising a man for a good thing, and you’re thinking that maybe because you’re praising him he might become a ba’al ga’avah. So maybe you shouldn’t praise him because of that. No, you don’t worry about that. In Slabodka they said that it’s a klal gadol that there’s no such thing as lifnei iver when it comes to middos. If it’s a mitzvah to make a person feel happy then we could disregard the possibility that he might become spoiled.
Hakodosh Boruch Hu Himself follows that principle. Hashem says והיה אם שמוע תשמעו אל מצוותי אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום – if you listen to all of the mitzvos that I command you, ונתתי מטר ארצכם בעתו – I’ll give you all good things, ואספת דגנך ואכלת ושבעת – you’ll gather in your grain from the field and you’ll eat and be satisfied. And then it says, השמרו לכם – But be very careful now! I’ll give you a reward for mitzvos, ואכלת ושבעת; but ואכלת ושבעת is a danger. Once the people have enough to eat, it’s always a sakanah. וישמן ישורון ויבעט – The Am Yisroel will get fat and then they might kick. But Hashem gives us food to satiation anyhow.
So you don’t say, “Well, I’ll cause people to be poor and hungry in order they should have good middos.” Don’t do that. No. You give the poor people plenty to eat and don’t worry about ואכלת ושבעת … השמרו לכם. Just like Hashem also gives us; He doesn’t worry. We have to give and not worry about that.
And therefore sometimes, when it’s done l’shem shamayim, we can ignore the fear of arousing jealousy.
But in general it pays to avoid jealousy in the family. Absolutely. Because you can never tell; when you plant jealousy in the mind of a child you can never tell how it’s going to rankle in his heart and who knows what will happen in the years to come. It’s a very important lesson that this story is teaching us; very important.
By the way, it states that because of this, because Yaakov showed favoritism to Yosef and it caused jealousy and the brothers sold him to Mitzrayim, that’s why we went down to Mitzrayim and we were enslaved by the Egyptians. All because of that. But you have to know, however, the stay in Mitzrayim, the sojourn two hundred and ten years in Mitzrayim was planned by Hakodosh Boruch Hu for a very important purpose, a more important purpose. Only that it could have happened in a different manner. The fact that it happened as a result of jealousy was made to teach us to avoid making people jealous. But it doesn’t mean if Yaakov hadn’t made somebody jealous it wouldn’t have happened. No. It would have happened anyhow. Absolutely.
TAPE # E-231 (April 2000)