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Is Someone Who Desires His Friend’s Car and Buys The Same Model in Transgression of Lo Sachmod? 

Rav Yosef Dovid Josilowsky

Question: Reuven saw that his neighbor purchased a new Lexus. This led him to desire the same car, so he went out and bought one for himself. Did he transgress the prohibition of Lo Sachmod?

Answer: It seems according to the major poskim, one only transgresses Lo Sachmod if he desires the actual item his friend has and takes possession of it. The Raavid holds the opinion that Lo Sachmod only applies if someone takes something without the consent of the owner. According to Rambam, one transgresses the prohibition by pressuring the owner to sell, even if he eventually gets the owner to consent to the sale. But both the Rambam and the Raavid agree that one only transgresses Lo Sachmod if he actually takes possession of his friend’s item. If he only desires it and goes out to purchase an identical item from elsewhere, he has not transgressed this prohibition.

The B’nei Yissoschor (in his Sefer Derech Pikudecha) rules differently. He cites a Zohar Hakadosh that asks why the Torah specifically mentions certain items that one may not covet – i.e., your friend’s ox, house or wife. Why are these specific items listed? The Zohar answers that the Torah is teaching us that one only transgresses the prohibition if he covets something that is akin to these items. If, however, one covets his friend’s Torah knowledge, he has not transgressed any prohibition.

The Bnei Yissochor points out that from the fact that the Zohar learns the pasuk to specifically be excluding kinas sofrim from the prohibition, we see that Lo Sachmod applies even when one takes nothing from his friend. In the case of kinas sofrim, one isn’t planning on taking away his friend’s Torah; rather, he envies him and, therefore, learns on his own. From the fact that the Torah has to exclude this from Lo Sachmod, we can infer that the prohibition applies even when nothing is taken from the friend. Simply coveting his possession to the point of attaining a similar one suffices to be considered a transgression.

The Divrai Yatziv cites a Maseches Kallah that seems to ask the same question as the Zohar and gives the same answer, indicating that one transgresses Lo Sachmod merely by desiring to have an identical item to his friend’s possession.

The B’Tzeil Hachochmah cites other Acharonim who disagree with this interpretation of the Zohar. However, it can be said that even if one doesn’t actually transgress the letter of the law of Lo Sachmod by simply coveting his neighbor’s possession, he is in transgression of the spirit of the law.  

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