#218: A Verse That Can Save Humanity
Kedushat Levi on Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei, Shemot/Exodus 36:7
Gimme Some Torah #218
וְהַמְּלָאכָה הָיְתָה דַיָּם לְכָל־הַמְּלָאכָה לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתָהּ וְהוֹתֵר׃
. . .their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done.
Moses orders the people to stop bringing their voluntary donations for the construction of the מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan, Tabernacle) because, as the Torah says in Ex. 36:7, “their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done.”
The English translation does not capture the paradoxical nature of the verse. The more accurate (but less elegant) translation would be, “Their efforts had been adequate for all the tasks to be done and abundant.” The Berditchever Rebbe (bio) comments on this paradox:
The statement that the materials donated for construction of the Tabernacle first described as enough, and, as an afterthought, as more than sufficient, poses a problem. Either it was enough or it was superabundant.
The Berditchever’s answer to the paradox quotes a midrash that explains the name א–ל שַׁדַּי (El Shaddai), one of God’s names in the Bible. The midrash says that El Shaddai is a reference to the superabundant God who said about the universe, “Enough!” (דַי, dai):
Seeing that the largesse emanating from God in His capacity as the Eyn Sof (Limitless One), will automatically keep increasing unless stopped, this term for God is used to describe Him as also the One Who called די, “enough,” to an ever expanding universe during the process of creation. A term comprising apparent contradictions is by itself not unique, therefore.
In other words, the Berditchever is saying that El Shaddai is a name that sounds like an oxymoron but really isn’t, like jumbo shrimp, criminal justice, or freezer burn. El Shaddai is simply a name that recognizes God as the one who sets limits, the one who says, “Enough!”
This idea that even God says, “Enough!” to creation itself is an idea so powerful that it could save humanity from itself:
•What if more people could look at their (non-abusive) partners and say, “You know what, this person is enough. My spouse is both adequate and more than enough, and probably better than I deserve.”? I think a lot of marriages and relationships would be saved.
•What if people who drive themselves and others crazy with their interminable chase for more power and more money could say, “What I have is both adequate and more than enough.”? I think a lot of suffering would be avoided.
•What if the leader of Russia looked at a map and said, “I already have the largest country in the world, twice as large as Canada, and even frozen Siberia is a treasure trove of gold, iron, gas, and diamonds. Russia is both enough for me and more than sufficient, so what do I need Ukraine for?” His dangerous war would be over that same day.
•What if people who live miserable online lives take a look in the mirror and say, “My real life is wonderfully adequate. I don’t need to convince strangers that I’m right. I don’t need to have a new Tinder date every weekend. I am enough, and God loves me as-is.”?
And the Oscar for “Verse that Could Save Humanity” goes to Exodus 36:7.
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Rabbi Eli Garfinkel is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Somerset, New Jersey. He is the author of The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary.
As for enough and abundant: Artisans are also people, they also make mistakes. Maybe the abundance means that even if they are carving some acacia wood and their knife slips badly, so that they'll have to throw the piece in the fire, there will still be enough.
And as for relationships: Your image of them seems to me to be somewhat black and white. Either they are abusive, or what? There are a lot of relationships that are not abusive in the strict sense, and that are still pretty bad, joyless or whatever, and deserve to be ended.
There's a pretty good article on the intricacies of consent and bad sex: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/mar/11/why-we-need-to-take-bad-sex-more-seriously-metoo Part of it certainly applies to romantic relationships and marriages as well...