Out of curiosity, do you know anyone who has eaten a whole pot roast in one sitting?
Here’s why I ask: My Mom and Dad get married. Mom makes a pot roast. Dad eats the whole thing in one sitting. How did this happen?
My Dad was the baby in a family of 3 strapping boys (4 if you count grandpa) living in an apartment in the Bronx in the 40’s and 50’s. Grandma had a simple technique for feeding her family, similar to what you might use if you were raising a small swarm of locusts: She would only put out the food she wanted to have eaten. If she bought a whole chicken but wanted some left for tomorrow, she’d put out half the chicken.
My Mom was raised in Cleveland, Ohio with her one brother in a home that was remarkably free of food issues.
So my parents get married, and my Mom is doing her best Donna Reed impression. She’s got the table set, the pearls are one, the whole shebang. They sit down to dinner and my Dad digs in. And keeps digging. And digging and digging.
At the end of the meal, the pot roast is gone, my Dad is unable to move because his arteries are hardening on the spot, and my Mom is beside herself trying to figure out how she’s going to feed a man who eats whole pot roasts for supper!
I want to make it clear that this is the only time he did that. After they got over the initial shock, it didn’t take long to figure out what happened. Which is why they continue to tell the story today with amusement and love.
In the Torah we read “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to God for the good land which He has given you.”
A lot of focus is spent on the “give thanks” part, but equally important is taking the time to recognize when we are, in fact, full. When we have had enough. Sure, some of what happened to my parents was because of cultural issues and childhood habits. But some of it rests on them. Why didn’t my Dad realize he was full? Why didn’t my Mom ask him when half the pot roast was gone?
A few weeks go, the Torah relates a moment when Moses asks for a chance to enter Canaan, and God replies “Rav Lach!”. This is often interpreted as “Enough!” but many Rabbi’s extend it to mean “You have enough!”. – God was telling Moses that he didn’t need Canaan, he already had everything he could ever want.
Torah offers us the chance to learn the habit of self-assessment, to ask ourselves whether we’re satisfied and then put down the pot roast. Conversely, if we are still hungry, we need to know that God’s bounty is out there, and we gain nothing by depriving ourselves. “When you have eaten your fill” the Torah tells us. We aren’t commanded to stop short of that. There will be enough, we are reassured.
As folks working in technical roles, we need to keep this in mind as well. We’re fond of grumbling “there’s never time to do it right but always time to do it over.” but that holds an important lesson. We can (and should) ask for more time. Not just to complete projects properly, but to ensure that we have the energy to continue doing the good work. To avoid burning out. To continue to find the joyful aspects of our work. We have to remember that there is enough, and even if we have to advocate for ourselves a bit harder than we might like, it is still worth the effort.
In this month of reflection and growing self-awareness, we have the opportunity to ask whether we are full or not, and to ask for more if we need it, and give thanks if we don’t.