Meet Reuven. He’s a solid working guy who learns with a chavrusa early in the morning and helps his wife with the kids at night. Life is good, with little frill, and he’s mostly OK with that—until he hears the hock in shul about someone who made a huge real estate deal. Or he’s driving through town and sees the signs announcing an upcoming development with the name of someone he went to yeshivah with printed proudly on the bottom. The classic pangs of jealousy rise, demanding “Who is he anyway?” and “Why not me?” Reuven knows it’s wrong, but he finds it quite difficult to fargin other people’s successes.
What can Reuven do to help reorient his thinking?
Greater Peace of Mind
People often look at others’ success and pine for it themselves. They judge the talent and brains of the other person and mentally pull them down to their level. This has a terrible effect on one’s mental and emotional well-being. When a person can find it within themselves to fargin, the fires raging within them are tamed. Greater peace of mind also enables the focus and drive to achieve one’s unique goals.
The Rebbe’s Advice
This concept is pithily illustrated with the following tale. A person approached his Rebbe and complained that parnassah was not going well. He proceeded to list all the things his competitor was doing that were supposedly harming his business. The Rebbe finally said softly, “Maybe your business is suffering because you’re spending too much time looking at his business instead of your own. Just look at yourself, and you’ll be successful.”
We often get carried away watching other people and trying to match them, when if we just stay in our own lane, focus on and tap into our own strengths, and create our own path, we’re more likely to see success.
We’re All Winners
On a pragmatic level, it’s interesting to note that someone else’s success is the broader community’s success as well. As the old adage goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. Take the new housing development: it will bring in more growing families, who will buy from local stores, who will hire workers and pay suppliers and so on, stimulating the communal economy. There’s a ripple effect that those far from the housing development’s sphere will be affected by. When other people succeed, everyone gains.
Sharing the Wealth
Also consider that with more success comes more tzedakah and support for community institutions. Reuven’s shul just got an Otzar Hahochma and new chairs. Had he asked where the shul had the funds from to pay for such valuable upgrades, he would have been informed it was a donation from the guy who just closed that big deal. And if he chas v’shalom falls on hard times, it may well be the same business owner who will tide him over or even provide him a new position. Another’s wealth, his gain.
Believe it or not, farginning is smart even between competitors; having a friendly competitor often helps one’s business instead of hurting it. The two can refer work to each other or even collaborate on a job that is too big for one. Smaller businesses can combine buying power to purchase supplies or equipment in bulk and gain lower costs for all parties involved. Even without referrals and collaboration, one’s competitors may be growing the pie by raising awareness of the value of the services both businesses provide. A farginning attitude makes everyone a winner.
In it Together
An amazing farginning perspective was described by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita in regard to his father, who owned a bakery in Brooklyn. Any time a new bakery opened in the area, instead of bemoaning that he had more competition, he would rejoice and say, “Another person to share the responsibility of feeding Klal Yisrael!” He viewed his job as hishtadlus but also as part of a joint task of servicing the community, and he was glad that this great responsibility did not rest solely on his shoulders. Viewing competition as an opportunity to better service the community is an attitude that pays dividends.
Farginning for Achdus
Let’s take the benefits of farginning beyond the financial realm to the political sphere. If individuals don’t fargin others within the community, it fractures and creates disunity. Developing political influence and supporting those who advocate for the community are vital aspects of hishtadlus. Many people have an irrational itch against all “machers,” especially the “movers and shakers” who are in the limelight. Some think or even express, “Who is he to do x?” or “Why is he in charge?” without recognizing that the “macher’s” success very often benefits the klal. If we get stuck in our narrow individual viewpoints and kvetch publicly, we lose the forest for the trees. (This is not to say there isn’t room for debate on the specific approaches and positions taken.)
The Power of Active Farginning
Once a person can fargin, he may take this attitude to the ultimate degree and actually seek the success of those around him. Chazal say of people who daven on anothers’ behalf, “hu ne’eneh techilah—he will be answered first.” When people have a good eye and actively try to help others succeed, it brings great bracha. This is the power of true farginning.
Fake it Till You Make It
Try and take a minute to reflect on the benefits of being a farginning kind of person. Think about how farginning and working together benefit not just the other, but even more so, you. Even when you don’t feel it, do it. As Chazal say, “Mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah”—through doing good deeds not for the sake of Heaven, one comes to doing them for the sake of Heaven.