• Rabbi Marc Kraus

The Perfect Limit

My granddaughter Aryka had asked for some scrambled eggs, so I made her a made her a scrambled egg the way she likes it. She demolished it hungrily with comments of how delicious it was. Then she asked for more. I made her a second egg and the scenario was repeated. When she asked for a third egg, which I obliged, she began to eat it with comments of contentment. Midway through her third bite, she exclaimed, “Grandma, this egg tastes terrible, something is wrong with it.” I marveled that she could pay such close attention to know that what had been so satisfying to her was now distasteful because she had had enough. [1]

The Talmud teaches that we have a responsibility to enjoy the amazing variety of good things this world has to offer us. [2] These gifts we have been given, especially those we most enjoy, are often associated with feelings of satisfaction. However, as the story above illustrates, there is a point where we must recognize that we have reached the “perfect limit” for what we are enjoying.

I enjoy watching TV shows on Netflix (yes, shocking). Some episodes may have brought me great pleasure. At what point, though, does just letting the next episode start playing become an addictive behavior? At what point am I ignoring that “point of saturation,” genuine pleasure, and simply trying to recapture those previous “feelgood” moments?

When building the portable sanctuary in the wilderness, the Mishkan, the Israelites were so generous in their contributions that a point was reached at which there was more than enough. I imagine that the Mishkan could have been gaudier and bigger as a result, but Moses called a stop to the donations. They had exactly what they needed, and that was enough. [3]

Achieving that level of awareness, knowing when we have reached that perfect point of saturation, is one of the most important skills we can learn in life. Thus the early rabbis taught: “Who has true strength? A person who has learned to curb their addictions.” [4]

We should not seek to live apart from the world, but rather to gain the truest appreciation of it we can.

[1] Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas, p 78

[2] Palestinian Talmud, Kiddushin 4:12

[3] Torah, Exodus 36:5

[4] Mishnah, Avot (Pirkei Avot) 4:1

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