Artist: Jerry Weiss
Have you ever had the experience of spontaneously feeling envious when someone has shared good news? It can be a really horrible feeling and, in some cases, can also lead to ongoing resentment. Rabbi Nilton Bonder speaks to this:
Yiddish has a very special verb, unknown to most other languages: farginen. It means to open space, to share pleasure; it is the exact opposite of the verb to envy. While envy means disliking or resenting the happiness of others, farginen means making a pact with another individual's pleasure or happiness. This unique word represents the space in which we allow others to express their happiness, feeling of success, or gladness.
Discipline is needed for farginen, because this feeling is rarely natural to human beings in their animal dimension. There is nothing wrong or false about seeking such learning. Like any other kind of social ability, such as not stealing, farginen comes through discipline. . . . When we are able to farginen someone spontaneously, it means we have done the required groundwork of dealing with our self-esteem, at least to some extent. But we will always have to work at reacting to opportunities for farginen, so as not to miss them.
It's much easier to suffer with a friend, to help someone who is less fortunate, than to farginen. It's much harder to sincerely share others' happiness. And the consequences are proportional: those whose suffering we share are eternally grateful, while those whose happiness we share will eternally care for us, as true friends.
Actually, there's a Sanskrit word that is very similar. The word is mudita and is usually translated into English as "sympathetic joy". It is that ability to be "in sympathy" with another in that person's joy as well as in his or her sorrow. Both mudita and farginen remind me of the biblical injunction to "rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep."