This morning, Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro shared a variant about the Hanukkah story that blew my mind. In the story most of us have heard, when the Maccabees wanted to rededicate the Temple, there was only enough oil for one day. Yet a miracle occurred and the old lasted eight days, until new oil arrived. As she presented in the Institute of Jewish Spirituality Daily Sit, she asked
What if the miracle was there always was enough,… and in their anxiety, those who saw the oil saw its meagerness instead of its abundance?
She rightly observed that we often get caught up in feelings that there is not enough. And she offered an alternative, that we can tap into the Shefa – an ever-flowing source of abundance. Now some of us might tune out if we get “too mystical” talking about Shefa. Yet there are two things that even the least mystical can take from this.
1. It is undeniably true that humans have a tendency to feel scarcity when it doesn’t always exist. As it says in Ecclesiastes 5:9-11
A lover of money never has his fill of money, nor a lover of wealth his fill of income. That too is futile. As his substance increases, so do those who consume it; what, then, does the success of its owner amount to but feasting his eyes? A worker’s sleep is sweet, whether he has much or little to eat; but the rich man’s abundance doesn’t let him sleep.
2. Our Evil Inclination scares us into thinking that we don’t have enough, even when we do. My mother had very little money. But she always found a way to host people for snacks or lunch, and kept a bowl of candy on her coffee table for guests.
When faced with fears of scarcity, we are faced with a choice – do we clutch what we have close to us, or do we move forward and see what happens. The Maccabees moved forward and low it turned out they had enough oil for 8 days. When I left the corporate world, we though we could only afford it for a year. But ten years later, we’ve still had enough.
Finally, Cantor Spencer-Shapiro reminded us that there are many many people who don’t have enough. And it is our job to share with them.
Do you ever get trapped by fears of scarcity in your life? How do you deal with them? I’d love to know. As always, I answer every comment.
This post is a lead in to this week’s Jewish Wisdom For Coping with a Pandemic gathering, which will focus on the Soul Trait of Gratitude, which is chapter 12 in The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions. These drop in zoom sessions are open to people of any age, religion, gender or level of Jewish background. Please come join us, and bring a friend.