The Economics of Enough

Then the brothers meet, Esau tells Jacob, “I have much.” Jacob responds by saying, “I have enough” (literally, I have everything).

The scholar and ethicist Meir Tamari calls this “the economics of enough.” We always want more; as Koheleth teaches, “The eye never has enough of seeing nor the ear of hearing” — we might add, nor the hand of grasping. Yet beyond a certain point, money and possessions are not what you need or even what you can use, but about salving the ego with more and more and more.

Many people in our communities have far more money than they or their families could possibly spend, and are nonetheless reluctant to contribute to charity. Others have celebrations so lavish that the spiritual meaning is drowned in awful opulence. This is not the economics of enough or even the economics of excess; it is the economics of egregiousness.

Money in this world should be not a cistern but a fountain. It can make the world better if used, not merely fortify the walls of a shaky self-esteem by being amassed. Limitation and generosity are hallmarks of our tradition; rapacity and hoarding are the antithesis of Israel, who taught us the economics of enough.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.