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Rav Aharon Kotler: Envy

The 2nd of Kislev is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Aharon Kotler (1892-1962), rosh yeshivas Bais Medrash Govoah, Lakewood. The son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman Pines, Rav Aharon was known as the “Shislovitzer iluy.” At 14 he entered the Slobodka yeshivah, where he learnt under the Alter and HaRav Moshe Mordechai Epstein. He also heard shiurim from Rav Baruch Ber, who had his own yeshiva in one of the suburbs of Slobodka. He married the daughter of R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, head of the yeshivah Etz Chaim in Slutsk, and became his assistant (1914). Even before he was 25 years old, he became one of its roshei yeshivah. After the yeshivah’s forced transfer to Kletsk in Poland – due to the Bolchevik takeover and religious persecution (1921), Rav Isser Zalman emigrated to Erez Ysrael, and Rav Kotler directed the Etz Chaim for 20 years. With the Soviet occupation of Poland in 1939, Rav Kotler escapied first to Kobe, Japan, then to the United States (April, 1941). Reb Aharon assumed a leading role in theoperations of the Vaad Hatzoloh. Under his leadership, Beth Medrash Govoha opened in a converted house in Lakewood, New Jersey in April 1943, and the yeshiva and kollel student body increased from the original 14 to 140 in 1962, the year of Reb Aharon’s petiroh. Reb Aharon also headed Chinuch Atzmai, the network of Torah day schools in Israel, founded in 1953, and he took over the leadership of Torah U’Mesorah, the American day school movement, after the death of its founder HaRav Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz. He also headed Agudas Yisrael’s Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah.

“For anger kills the fool; envy slays the naïve.” (Job 5:2)

The Orchot Chaim teaches that envy is a devastating disease that has no cure. The verse says, “Envy brings rotting of the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30) We think of bones as being strong and that it is difficult for the bones of a living person to rot, yet, envy will definitely eat away at them.

This is what the verse means when it says, “Envy slays the naïve.”

However, once a person considers and understands that one person cannot touch that which has been prepared by heaven for another, and all the more so if he trusts in God, he will have no problem accepting that his friend has something that he does not.

The Mesillat Yesharim – The Path of The Just – of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto – describes envy as experiencing that whatever someone else has, was taken from him. He suffers so much that he loses his ability to enjoy what he has.

Envy deprives him even of what he does possess, because he is unable to enjoy it.

The only approach to repait must be absolute faith in Divine Providence: God will guide him in the absolute best path for him. Whatever he does not have, he does not really need.

Once a person ceases to look at what others have he will stop seeking what he does not possess and will be able to enjoy what is his. (See Ibn Ezra Exodus 20:14) (Mishnat Rabbi Aharon, Page 268)

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