Children around the world know the story of the Three Bears – a happy ursine family whose home is invaded by one Goldilocks who manages in short order to wreck the place but good. Trying out the family’s three bowls, three chairs and finally three beds she finds this one too hard, that one too soft and the third one, happily, just right.
Goldilocks was indeed a very fortunate young lady. Because after some experimentation and trial and error she managed to get her reality to match up exactly with her preconceived notion of the desirable, the expected, and the sufficient. Everything turned out ‘just right.’
The story of the Three Bears is not in this week’s Torah portion. Parashat Vayakheil does continue, though, with an account of the building of the Tabernacle. The portion begins with Moses asking the people to contribute gifts for the construction of the sanctuary – gold, silver, precious stones, fine fabrics and the like. God further instructs Moses to accept gifts from any and every person whose heart so moves him or her to bring. And bring the people did, in spades. The Torah tells us that the Israelites continued to bring gifts morning after morning until the artisans finally came to Moses and said. ‘The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks that must be done.’ Consequently, Moses restrained the people from bringing because, as the Torah explains, ham’lahchah hayetah dahyahm, their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks that needed to be done.
It’s the word ‘enough’ that gave rise to the problem of sanctuary over supply. Moses had failed to specify the needed quantity of material for any given category of building material, proving once again that sometimes too much is as bad as too little. And with all the tasks needed for sanctuary construction, it took some doing before the Tabernacle could come out ‘just right.’
Enough is an essential but tricky measure. Since enough is a function of the desirable, the expected and the sufficient ‘enough’ is subject to a wide variety of interpretations. When does a person have enough money, enough time, enough attention, affirmation, acceptance, love or recognition? With regard to these last measures, what can I reasonably expect from others and what can they reasonably expect from me? In other words, what and when is ‘enough’ enough?
Unfortunately, in such matters there is no ‘enoughometer’ to unquestionably gauge ‘correct,’ but I do suspect that - with every attribute or gift we desire - we all hold within ourselves some sense of what constitutes sufficiency. Our tendency , however, is to keep that measure secret, sometimes from ourselves but especially from those closest to us. The better strategy is to make that measure known and to honestly and candidly express our needs to the person or persons we need to provide them. It is unfair to hold others responsible for not giving us what we have never asked for, or similarly to find others guilty of not hearing what we have never said. The incantation “I shouldn’t have to tell you. You should just know” is a formula for disappointment. By the same token, it is unfair, unrealistic, even irresponsible to hold others to a measure of sufficiency that is impossible for them to provide. No one can fill a black hole.
Like Moses with the tabernacle and Goldilocks in the home of the Three Bears, sometimes we get to ‘enough’ only through trial and error or better some back and forth negotiation.
So I will wish you a Shabbat Shalom and Sabbath rest in sufficient measure to strengthen and nourish your soul.