Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Jealousy, lust, and honor.”

A statement in the Mishna (Avot 4:21) says: “Jealousy, lust, and honor remove a person from the world.”

There are three phases in a person’s life.

In young children, the feeling that is most prominent, motivating them to action, is that of jealousy.

A child is not so much desirous of things as he is jealous of others who possess them.

When a person becomes an adult, jealousy subsides, and lust burns.

Afterward, when a person grows old, lust quiets down, and the desire for honor comes.

Jealousy, lust, and honor, with all their differences, are the same in that they are expressions of the animal soul dominating a person.

Tradition has it that the last thing the Ba’al Shem Tov said before his death was “Let the foot of pride not come to me” (Ps. 36:12).

Similarly, it is told that the holy Arizal’s last words were “Protect me from arrogance” (see Notzar Hesed, Avot

These accounts express, perhaps in the most extreme way, that the struggle with the evil inclination continues until the very last moments of one’s life.

Even a person who has conquered his evil inclination completely still has the challenge not to succumb to pride due to its defeat.

This very fact could lead to his potential downfall. 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz