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.