5 And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying: ‘What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
The Torah tells us that a man who recently married, planted a field, or built a home, is exempt from the physical danger of war because of the possible fate that he may die, which would prevent him from fulfilling his dream of benefiting from the things that he recently built or acquired. The Torah, however, adds on an interesting afterthought: וְאִישׁ אַחֵר, יַחְנְכֶנּוּ. That a different person will benefit from that which he has done.
The simple understanding of this is that HKBH has rachmanus on a person, and does not want him to toil to no avail. However, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin explains this with an insight into the human psyche. The Medresh Rabba in Bereishis (56:4) tells us that after Yitzchak agreed to be killed on the alter as a korbon, he was approached by the Satan and told “If you die, your possessions will go to Yishmael!” The Medrash is pointing out that for some people, hearing that others will benefit from their work, can be more painful than death itself! This jealousy that ‘he has mine!’, can push a person to change directions in life.
It is interesting that this man who is exempt from combat duty is still obligated to be involved in the war effort, albeit far behind the front lines. This is the exact opposite of kinah (jealousy): Being secondary (behind the lines) while someone else is successfully fighting on the front lines. Upon reading his words I was moved about the thought of the “beast within us. “ A soldier could have selflessness to the point of putting himself into danger on the front lines for the benefit of others. But this same gallant soldier could suddenly lose his determination and become very selfish if he hears that someone else will get his new car if he were to die.
Many times we would be willing to forgive others for their iniquities against us. But then we think ‘If I forgive him, he is going to get off the hook’. Looking at what benefit the other person is getting from me, instead of ‘what I can do for the other person’ can stop us from being altruistic and from doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing. However, if we apply the idea of Rav Sorotzkin and make ourselves ‘secondary’ to the person that harmed us, this can help us forgive the other person. We can vanquish the jealousy that is within us and become better people.