Abundance mentality vs. scarcity mentality

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I feel that I live very much with the philosophy that anything is possible, because I try to live a spiritual life and stay connected to G-d, and I feel that with Him there’s nothing in the way of succeeding in anything I do, nothing too big or even too expensive. Is that a Jewish way to think and are there sources for this outlook in the Torah?

Micheal B.

Dear Micheal,

The philosophy you describe, which we’ll call the Abundance Mentality, as opposed to the Scarcity Mentality, is the most Jewish of philosophies. It’s exactly as you describe it: With G-d anything is possible and if one remains connected to Him the sky’s the limit!

This ideology is found in numerous sources in the Torah and rabbinical writings; we’ll cite a few examples here. 

When Moses complains to G-d that the nation is demanding meat to eat and not feeling satisfied with the manna from heaven, G-d replies by commanding Moses to tell the people to prepare themselves to receive meat the following day. Moshe raises the question to G-d, where is he supposed to find enough meat for millions of people? Even if he would have all their cattle and sheep slaughtered it wouldn’t suffice to feed them all! G-d then rebukes Moshe, “Hayad Hashem tiktzar?!” — “Is the Hand of G-d limited?!” (Numbers 11:17-23).

This question/rebuke of G-d, “Is the Hand of G-d limited?,” I believe is the foundation of the Jewish approach to the Abundance Mentality. 

I had an experience in my youth related to this which had a huge impact on me until today. During my yeshiva high school years in Chicago, I began purchasing many seforim, Jewish Torah texts of all sorts. I felt that I should buy as much as I could during those years of being single, assuming that once I would eventually be married there wouldn’t be money available to buy books. I once related that to the wife of the yeshiva dean, Rebbetzin Ella Soloveitchik ob”m, a very wise and learned woman. She immediately replied to me in shock, “Hayad Hashem tiktzar?!,” G-d’s reply to Moshe — is the Hand of G-d limited?!

The Rebbetzin’s gut reaction, born of her tremendous belief and trust in G-d and His limitless capabilities, had a profound impact on my youthful mind and heart and affected everything I’ve done subsequently, to live with an Abundance Mentality. Anything is possible when one trusts in G-d. (She was right; I still haven’t stopped buying Torah volumes ever since!)

A few years later in Israel while studying in an Israeli yeshiva, a group of American students were less than excited about the Israeli Shabbat meals. They wanted to buy meal tickets at the Central Hotel to walk to the hotel for the Shabbat meals, an expensive endeavor. Not being wealthy, they wanted to rely on the rabbinical statement that money spent for Shabbat will be returned by G-d, but they weren’t sure if the expense of a hotel meal would be too much for that rabbinical statement. The students sent representatives to a leading Sage, Rabbi Pinchas Scheinberg, for a ruling on their query. 

Rabbi Scheinberg simply replied, “G-d has plenty of money!,” and my friends proceeded to carry out their plan.

Although I was OK with the yeshiva food and didn’t have the need to walk to the hotel, I still gained from the rabbi’s message that G-d has plenty of money, there’s no scarcity in Heaven and if one does the right thing and connects to G-d anything is possible. 

There’s an important corollary of this which, perhaps, we’ll discuss further in the next column.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.

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