I got an email from a KT member this week lamenting that there aren't enough hours in the day. My response: meditate longer. It's not obvious. And it's not facetious. Somehow pausing makes for more space. I am forever grateful to a therapist who once taught me this wisdom.
But the truth is it doesn't solve the larger problem of feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day. Which is actually only one of the many things we don't have enough of. Time, money, patience, clarity, understanding, peanut butter-filled pretzel snacks. We are conditioned towards scarcity by the structures of everyday life, which is further amplified by the endless wants of the human mind.
Once a year we gather around a seder table and sing Dayenu - It's enough for us, aka, we have enough, or often translated, it would have been enough! Whether or not we actually believe the verses of this song, by embedding this song in the traditions of Passover, we learn that the feeling of enoughness is intricately connected to freedom itself.
But long before anyone ever sang Dayenu, Moses pronounced this very sentiment. This week we read parashat Vayakhel. Moses instructs the Israelites to bring whatever their heart is called to generously give to build the mishkan. Gemstones and precious metals, colorful fabrics and fancy wood. And in a biblical instant, the people open up their hands and hearts and give so much that Moses calls out, enough!
וַיֹּאמְרוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה לֵּאמֹ֔ר מַרְבִּ֥ים הָעָ֖ם לְהָבִ֑יא מִדֵּ֤י הָֽעֲבֹדָה֙ לַמְּלָאכָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה לַעֲשֹׂ֥ת אֹתָֽהּ׃
"The people are bringing much more than enough... (Ex. 36:5)"
For me what is always so meaningful about this passage is the energy that motivates such giving. It intentionally comes freely from one's heart. As if to say, when we are generous, we have more than enough.
But in truth, it is not obvious or logical that the Israelites are feeling particularly generous in this moment. We just finished reading the story of the Golden Calf. As a collective they are facing tremendous uncertainty, and often very fearful. It would be fair to characterize them as living with a scarcity mentality. So what happened that allows them to feel so generous with their most precious possessions? Do they actually feel generous or do they just give generously? In a world that is constantly suggesting we feel scarcity, what might we do to feel like we have more than enough?
In my own experience, the feeling of abundance doesn't actually lead to being generous. In fact the opposite is true. The experience of being generous is what allows me to feel abundance. If I were to wait until I felt like I had more than enough, I would miss so many opportunities to be generous. This is true for other sentiments like kindness and compassion. It is precisely when I am feeling most irritable that I need to find a way to do an act of kindness. And precisely when I feel most squeezed for time, I need to exercise or meditate.
And the same might be said of our ancestors. In precisely the moment when the Israelites are feeling the most protective and fearful, Moses instructs them to give generously. Not because they have a sense of overflowing abundance, but because giving will allow them to open their hearts to each other, and in that way, they will come to feel they have more than enough.
In his poem "When Giving Is All We Have," Alberto Ríos writes,
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us...
And in the words of Parker Palmer, "Community doesn't just create abundance - community is abundance. If we could learn that equation from the world of nature, the human world might be transformed."
May we have the courage to be as generous as possible, with ourselves and with each other, so that we all may come to feel we are and we have more than enough.
May it be so.
Rabbi Ari Lev
You can search Rabbi Ari Lev's blog below:
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.