The reading of the Aseret HaDibrot recently spawned a discussion about the definition of the term "covet." While young school children will offer up a nice vort of being happy with what you have, and older children might define coveting as jealously, none of these definitions satisfy me in defining one of the Aseret HaDibrot.
What I found in The Concise Book of Mitzvoth compiled by The Chafetz Chayim, regarding the definition of covet, literally left me trembling (I don't know why I never learned a more advanced definition of covet myself). Is it possible that the social structure of the Orthodox world, where parents are pressured into support that they often do not happily volunteer, sets a trap where the violation of such a mitzvah is a given?
Here is the piece I found. Read it for yourself and leave your comments. Am I correct to be left trembling? Am I applying this definition incorrectly? Or, a combination of both?:
40. It is a negative commandment not to covet (desire) anything belonging to one's fellow-man as Scripture says, You shall not covet, etc. (Sh'moth 10:14). Now coveting denotes that a person invests effort to put his thought into action; he sends many friends to the fellow, and importunes him, until he takes it [the object he desires] from him. Even if he has given him a great price for it, he thus violates it [the commandment]. This often occurs when a son-in-law pressures his father-in-law before the wedding that he should give him this-and-that object, which they did not stipulate when the t'na'im (conditions of the marriage) were written. Even if his father-in-law nevertheless violates this prohibition not to covet, etc. (and see Rabad on Rambam, Yad, hilchot g'zelah, i.).
This is in force everywhere, at every time, for both man and woman.
(Postscript: I do not have access to the Rabad on Rambam, so if someone would like to expound in the comments, I invite you to do so).
I can think of many circumstances where pressure is applied on parents (and even grandparents) to provide or "support." The pressure comes from a variety of sources: children, in-laws, mechutanim, and others. I hope my reading is wrong. But, it seems that if a person doesn't want to give, but is pushed involuntarily, especially to the point of breaking, that the negative commandment of not coveting, found in no lesser place, than the Aseret HaDibrot, has been violated. I hope my reading is way off base!
Update: Posters have pointed out from the Chofetz Chaim's example, that there is some room for negotiation before the ta'anim is written. I agree, but I wonder what the bounds of negotiation are and when they need to take place. I also should point out that in Ashkenazi circles (not Chassidish circles) the ta'anim is standard in its form, I believe, and is signed the day of the chuppah, not prior to engagement. These details are probably important in this discussion.
Since the subject of coveting (and getting out of the 1st grade in our definition) is of interest, I hope to make a further post about common situations where one could run the risk of coveting. So, if you of a common situation (doesn't need to be marriage related), please include it in the comments.