What is Enough?

Frequently (maybe too frequently), I wonder, "How much is enough?"  Have I enough money for retirement in my IRA? Did I make enough food for everyone coming to dinner?  Why do I have that feeling that there's never enough time in the day?

A new book "The Stranger in the Woods" describes the life of a hermit in the woods of Maine who spent more than two decades by himself apart from society.  For him just being alive was enough. I felt terrified just reading the book review.  He was alone, in the woods, by himself, foraging for food – and my initial panicked reaction was to wonder whether he'd have enough money to retire. Of course, the more obvious question was whether he'd find enough food in the winter.  For me, the most challenging question was what he did with all his free time.

Sufficiency rarely seems to be a theme in my life – perhaps "enough" is only a coda to life lived in a modern society. Yet, in this week’s Torah reading, we learn that, at least for a moment, the Children of Israel had enough. Asked to contribute items to construct the traveling mishkan – place of indwelling holiness – for the newly received Ten Commandments, the people gave with a willing heart. Moses even received a report that “the people brought much more than enough" (Ex. 36:5). Motivated by willing hearts – which I read as love – there was more than enough.

I live in a community where most of us have enough – enough in the bank to meet an emergency, enough to eat for every meal, enough time to exercise at the gym and watch Game of Thrones. What a blessing to be in a community where so many have enough and more. Yet the community Torah describes is not about a community that has enough, but rather a community that gives more than enough.

How does your giving measure up?  Do you give more than enough money and time to endeavors worthy of what is holy? The more we give from the love of a willing heart, the more we give (and the more we receive from giving). This is the enough-ness of Torah and spiritual tradition.  

If you're an anxious person like me, you might wobble between feeling that you have enough or not enough for retirement, or made or didn't make enough for dinner guests. Maybe the wobbles focus on the wrong sort of enough-ness.  Now, I’m also asking whether I give enough, and whether we as a community give enough – more than enough – so that we exercise our love muscles sufficiently.

When we do, then we might experience that day, just like the children of Israel, who gave so much that it was more than enough for holiness to dwell.

R’ Evan J. Krame