A business professional in Michigan named Ken Lingenfelter owns about 230 cars. Entertainer Jay Leno has about 170 and Jerry Seinfeld owns about 150. Each of those avid car collectors has a list of a few more cars that he’d really love to acquire but knows he probably won’t. Healthy people eventually recognize that nobody gets everything they want.
Even when we acquire what we want, we usually find ourselves wanting more, putting us back to square one. God created us with infinite desires. Happiness depends upon knowing that not all ambitions and longings can or should be realized.
This message is so important for humans to absorb that it is presented as a set of bookends to the Torah, appearing both at the beginning and at the end. It is as if the good Lord is saying, “Look, life has a huge paradox. I have created you with limitless ambition, countless hopes, and inexhaustible dreams. I want you to pursue those boundless visions but I don’t want your happiness to depend upon attaining them.”
The first person mentioned in the Five Books of Moses is Adam and the last is Moses. Both men experienced three steps; (1) Presentation of abundance; (2) Limitation; (3) Death notice.
First, the presentation of abundance:
From all the trees in the Garden you are free to eat and you should eat. (Genesis 2:16)
Moses climbed up from the plains of Moab up onto Mount Nebo… and the Lord showed him the whole land…(Deuteronomy 34:1)
Second, the limitation:
And from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you may not eat of it…(Genesis 2:17)
This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over into it. (Deuteronomy 34:4)
Third, the death notice:
…On the day that you eat of it, you will die. (Genesis 2:17)
And Moses the servant of God died there… (Deuteronomy 34:5)
Adam saw a garden with more delectable resources than any person could imagine. God immediately informs him that he doesn’t get everything. Nonetheless, Adam and Eve try for everything and are reminded for all time that life has its limit. The secret is enjoying what one does have.
Born in the exile of the Egyptian diaspora, Moses dreamed of the land of Israel which he knew had been promised to his seven-time-great-grandfather, Abraham. God selected him to bring to fruition the Hebrews’ return to Israel. For forty interminable, trying years in the desert, Moses longed for Israel. He is then shown the land. Scripture uses as many as thirty-three words to describe the full expanse of Israel that he saw. However, his vision was limited to seeing it from the top of a mountain outside the land. Shortly after, he transited to the spiritual world in which there are no limitations.
Whether we are driven to acquire automobiles or anything else, we must remember that the urge for limitlessness is a Godly impulse ingrained in us. It is from our limitless Creator that we inherit our desires for the infinite. As humans, we should enjoy the process and find happiness in the quest without mortgaging our fulfillment to attaining everything—an impossible task.
26 thoughts on “More? Sure! Everything? Never!”
My father just told me an interesting joke.
He says after a woman married and after a while, when she first came to visit her mother alone, her mother asked her how her new husband is treating her in their marriage. She replied that he is so great husband because so far he’s fulfilling everything she asked him to do. On which her mother said to her: “That means you did not ask for enough.” 🙂 🙂
Maybe we all should start asking our God for more too!
When I started reading this, I was looking at the fine collection of older cars that on display racks on the wall. there over 80 of them. They don’t require a garage or any maintenance, gas. oil or insurance. they all have certificates of authenticity. I haven’t added to the collection for some fifteen years and now that I’ve had a good life for 70 + 11 years I don’t know what to do with the cars or for that matter, a complete ham radio station. I wrote just being thankful all the blessings G-d has and is giving me and all these things I’ve acquired are not very important anymore. I enjoyed Susan and your Pod Cast last Friday.
Great to receive this QSL from you.
Someone in my family also collects those exquisitely detailed car models-mostly of famous marques. They are beautiful tributes to the car engineer’s art.
73s to you,
Were you a Ham operator in the past? In reference to the QSL & 73’s.
Built most of my rig myself.
Tubes, back then. Glowing filaments and the smell of solder in my nostrils.
Thanks for this message. Your reference to car collections encouraged me to research a huge car collection near me. Harold LeMay collected about 1800 cars near Tacoma. Many of them never became nice showroom cars. Instead some are still sitting in fields growing weeds in them. This becomes more interesting in light of your illustration that God gives us limits to what we can do or have.
After his death about ten years ago or so, Harold LeMay’s collection became a huge car museum in Tacoma which can be visited for one day each summer. I believe he made his fortune in garbage collection in the state of Washington. Thanks for reminding me of this interesting story.
Not being satisfied with what we have is how we achieve the great advancements in science and engineering, and even arts, even cooking arts. Imagine how dull life would be if we were always satisfied with what we have. We would just still be hunters/gathers, just subsisting. (Note there are some philosophies that believe humans should do just that, believing humanity is a blight on the Earth and should live like just any other animal.)
That said, there is more to “advancement” than knowledge or material or artistic gain. My religion has a saying, “No amount of success outside the home can compensate for failure in the home.” Raising one’s children to be productive moral happy adults is an accomplishment too. It also benefits society and the world.
Unproductive, immoral, and unhappy adults can be a major detriment to society. Modern technology in the hands of immoral unhappy adults can be very dangerous. I will leave imagining the consequences of such as an exercise for the reader.
don’t we aspire to help our children grow into colossal successes? And again, the process brings happiness regardless of how close to the ultimate ideal we get.
Thanks for the finest interpretation of the conundrum of Eden that I have ever heard. I wish I’d heard it on Mother’s knee. Yet in a way I did. My Mother told me she had known many, many rich people, but not one of them was happy. Even if you ‘have’ everything, still you cannot ‘have’ everything. And you can have it the one way or the other way. But you cannot have it both ways.
There is always an extreme from one side to another. There are some who always strive for more and better things and never being satisfied. And yet there are those who feel they were never meant for anything more or better, so why bother.
This is why we emphasized how important it is to pursue those boundless visions but not to make your happiness dependent upon reaching them. Keep striving but be happy and satisfied on the journey. God implanted a sense of the infinite in us and that is by definition good.
Thank you for writing this, it was very encouraging to read. I’ve been thinking about some of this a lot lately.
So happy to hear this, Ben,
Your family certainly seems to live this Biblical principle very well,
Thank you for this. I was wondering about dreams, goals, and desires and if they were really Godly to have and pursue. This answered it perfectly!
Thank you Tammy-
You contribute to our deep happiness by telling us that a teaching talked to your heart.
Thank you, Rabbi. The Adam analogy seems so simple to me now. “Our knowledge of God is made larger with every discovery we make about the world.” —Joseph H Taylor Jr., Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993.
A most interesting commentary, Rabbi. I thought immediately of Jeff Bezos (Amazon/WA Post), who has more money than almost anyone, as well as a beautiful wife, but squandered so much of it chasing some Hollywood reporter with classless Text messages & photos. As the Good Lord said (and you pointed out), a man can want abundance, he can have abundance, but he CANNOT HAVE EVERYTHING.
Great Thought Tools! Be sure to include this one in your next collections book.
Thank you Susan–
If fact we are looking forward to publishing further volumes in our collections set and will include this one as you suggest.
This brings me peace. Thank you for answering some evading questions I had about Adam, Moses, Solomon, the apostle Paul, my pastor and me.
Thank you Teena–
We feel deep satisfaction upon hearing that we have been useful.
What an excellent, thought provoking meditation. As I thought about your article, I remembered listening to an interview with a hedge fund manger who owned around 70 cars. He wasn’t sure of the exact number. I found it interesting that he rode to and from his office in the back of a limousine that belonged to somebody else, so he could focus on his job. His time was way to valuable to spend it driving in New York traffic.
It also brought a smile to my face, when I thought of the Steven Wright joke, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”
I’m pushing seventy three years old and as you get older you realize that material happiness is just having enough.
Thank you for explaining the perfect balance between desires and true happiness… love your teachings!
Thank you for your encouraging words. They are particularly valuable because we so appreciate your own holy work at New Beginnings.
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