God Stacks the Deck by Meir Dashevsky


            In this week's Parsha, Bnai Yisrael after many trials finally approach Har Sinai and prepare to receive the Torah.  After much anticipation, Hashem and Moshe recite the Aseret Hadibrot (ten commandments) to Bnai Yisrael.  The tenth, the prohibition against jealousy, creates the following question.  Isn't it human nature to want what other people have, how can Hashem command us to contradict human nature?  Why is Hashem giving an instruction that is practically impossible to keep?

            A possible solution is that Hashem is telling us to appreciate our strengths and accept and try to conquer out weaknesses.  Hashem gave us all of our strengths and weaknesses in a balanced way and we should appreciate them.  Often, we look at other people's talents and strengths and wish we were capable of what that other person is, be it sports, academia, popularity or anything else.  Consequently, we often fail to recognize their weaknesses and negative aspects.  Rabbi Baruch Lanner has compared idea this to a hand of cards.  In every hand there are aces and kings along with ones and twos.  Often a player might wish to trade hands with a fellow player because he saw that he possessed an ace or any other high valued card.  However, the wisher doesn't realize that the player with the ace also has a two, three, eight and a ten rendering the hand relatively valueless.  This is what Hashem is telling us to be careful of, don't be jealous of someone else's strengths because you may not be able to recognize their weaknesses.  The following is a story told to me by Rabbi Lanner.  Hopefully it will help to clarify my point with a real life situation.

            There was a summer camp that two boys attended.  The first's name was Srully.  He was the best athlete, told the funniest jokes and was the most popular with the campers and counselors alike.  The other boy's name was Yoni, he wasn't the best athlete, or the funniest person, nor was he the most popular.  Every year in camp, Srully and Yoni stayed in the same bunk.  And every year Yoni saw Srully being picked over him.  Every time there was a circle all the counselors wanted Srully to sit on their lap, no one wanted Yoni.  Whenever, they played ball Srully was always picked first and Yoni always last.  No one laughed as hard at Yoni's jokes as they had at Srully's.  This went on every year and every year Yoni wished Srully would just go away so he could be the best athlete and most popular with the campers and counselors.

            In the beginning of the summer, just like every summer, Yoni went to the bus stop where he would take a bus to camp.  But that year something was different- Srully wasn't there.  As soon as Yoni noticed this he became very excited at the notion that Srully wouldn't be in camp that summer.  However, at that same moment he realized that Srully might just be running late.  Eventually, the bus left and still no Srully.  This pleased Yoni to no end and he was very excited.  Life without Srully he thought, what could be better.  But again, just as he became exhilarated he was sobered at the possibility that year Srully was meeting them in camp.  So Yoni spent the entire bus ride in nervous anticipation, praying that Srully wouldn't show.

            When he arrived at the camp, Yoni ran to his bunk and tore the list of campers out of the hand of his counselor.  He scanned down the list and looked, Srully, Srully, Srully - no Srully.  At that moment Yoni realized that this summer was his summer.  He was king of the world or maybe just the bunk, but bottom line Srully wasn't there and that was all that mattered.

            After a week or so Yoni became curious as to why Srully didn't return to camp.  He approached the head counselor and very innocently asked why Srully wasn't attending camp.  The counselor answered that Srully had a degenerative heart and had died.

            The sobering story enumerates a lesson that Hashem could be trying to teach us by giving us this extremely difficult commandment.  Rabbi Lanner added that all Yoni saw was Srully's amazing abilities, his athleticism and his extremely popular comedic personality.  What Yoni didn't see was Srully's degenerative heart.  A ticking time bomb that no one knew about and in a second it was all over for Srully.  All we can see are other peoples aces and kings, never their ones and twos.  Only when they fold their hand do we see what cards they have (and even then it isn't completely clear).  So next time, when you look at someone with envy and wish you had their hand realize that you can only see their aces and kings not their ones and twos.  So, be happy with what you have in life because God deals the cards and always stacks the deck.

Share the Torah by Yoni Chambre

Moshe's Gratitude by Daniel Wenger