With French parents, I grew up hearing the phrase, “Ça suffit,” all the time. Interestingly, although my mother only became a French citizen later in life—my father is the true native—it is her voice I still hear ringing in my ears.
Literally, Ça suffit, means “That’s enough,” and it served as a catch-all phrase in our family. As a child, my mother would say it to my siblings and me if we were too rambunctious, or it was used more sternly if we were behaving inappropriately. It was thrown around in public when we picked out too many Hershey bars at the grocery store, or when we kept asking for more (and more) clothing. The bonus of using French was that the word would float over the average person’s radar without their understanding—or so we assumed.
Truthfully, this word is loaded with many layers and undertones for every user. One Erev Shabbos, I was preparing for a potluck meal with a few families in our home. We piled on another family at the last minute, and I was worried that the potato dish I made was not sufficient enough for the amount of people eating it. I called my friend to get her opinion, and she answered me with words that have stayed with me ever since.
“Sarah, whatever amount you have, it’s enough.”
Although she was referring to the potatoes, this concept can be applied to our possessions as well. Whether packing for a trip, or feeling satiated in life, perhaps it is enough. From potatoes to possessions, we have everything we need.
I am often asked by my students, What can we do when we don’t feel satisfied with our lot in life? And isn’t wanting more a good thing? Isn’t it a sign of ambition? Where is the balance?
A student of mine had been on the dating scene for many years and was discussing a great guy she had been set up with. When she began nitpicking his minor flaws, I reflected back to her another phrase my mother drilled into me as a child, “We have to know when to leave well enough alone.”
This can be applied to life in general. Perfectionism is a lie, and whether we’re dating or accomplishing, if we keep striving to reach the elusive goal of perfection, we will often be left with nothing.
I was once in the holy city of Jerusalem experiencing a Shabbat meal with a family of native Yerushalmis. Their apartment was physically bare, with minimal furniture and decorations, but filled to the brim with spirituality.
At the meal, the youngest child pointed to her sister and whined, “I want that headband!”
Placidly, the mother asked her, “Eizeh hu ashir?—Who is rich?”
Smiling, the daughter responded with the rest of the famous verse from Pirkei Avot, “Hasameach bechelko.—He who is happy with his lot.”
I was awestruck, especially since one can’t orchestrate a child’s reaction. If this simple family could feel blessed and satisfied, then surely I could, too.
Satisfaction is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Most of us wake up with a feeling of scarcity. After our first yawn and stretch, our thoughts lead us to, I’m so tired, I didn’t get enough sleep, I have such a busy day, or I don’t have enough time. It is a constant feeling of just not having enough.
Perhaps, in reality, we do have enough, and we are enough. Maybe it does suffice! Even the Torah uses its own form of Ça suffit. Dov Ber Pinson, in his Spiral of Time series, writes, “The more you acquire, the more you require.”
It is human nature to have desires, ambition, and even envy. We all know that as soon as we obtain the object of our desire, we are already on to the next possession. Physicality is usually just out of reach. With an insatiable appetite, the human keeps consuming, hoping to feel satiated, yet never quite feeling full.
How can we come to a place where we feel enough during times that call upon satisfaction?
Rebbetzin Henny Machlis, in Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, explains that Korach was not satiated because he wanted more power and prestige, and thus he envied his cousin Moshe’s role of leadership.
Why was Korach punished? He didn’t receive din for feeling jealous; rather, he received din because he didn’t call out to Hashem to ask for what he wanted. Feelings are implanted in us by Hashem, and therefore Korach could not control his feeling of jealousy. He was punished because he turned away from the power of tefillah and instead utilized his jealousy to attempt to create something destructive. This led to his personal destruction.
What if, rather than saying, “I want more,” Korach had said, “Hashem, I want more.” This is what the Torah urges us to do.
There’s a mashal of a doctor who was asked to work the night shift at the hospital. He was the sole doctor on the premises but was instructed to gather the doctors on call if it got too overwhelming. Initially, he was handling things well, but as more patients arrived, he struggled to maintain balance. Because he could not manage successfully alone, a patient died under his supervision. This doctor was eventually prosecuted because he didn’t call for help when he should have.
When we feel lacking in something, we should feel empowered to turn to Hashem for help. We can daven with the following plea:
Hashem, I know it is “enough,” but even if I should feel satiated and content, I don’t. Please understand my human limitations and give with an open hand. Hashem, I know I don’t deserve this, but still I ask with chutzpah for more. Please say yes, yes, yes to us, again and again.
I started praying in this way when a mentor of mine told me the following story. She and her husband were approached for help regarding parnassah. They helped this man find a job, and although he expressed his gratitude, it seemed to open a Pandora’s box of requests. He subsequently asked for another favor, and they helped again, thinking that would be the end of his requests. Instead, he asked for money. They gave it. Then, he asked another favor, which would require this couple to put themselves in an uncomfortable situation on his behalf.
At this point, they were frustrated with the array of never-ending requests, and felt it was somewhat chutzpadik. But, rather than embarrassing him or just saying no, they decided to stretch themselves and acquiesce. As they reflected upon the situation they realized, Is this not what we do to Hashem, day in and day out?
Their knee-jerk reaction was Ça suffit. But instead they decided, Hashem is our example, and therefore we will do more because we want Hashem to give us more, too (even when we ask with chutzpah).
Hashem wants our envy; He wants our dissatisfaction. He gave us those feelings so we can turn them upward instead of outward. When we turn our jealousy outward, Hashem says enough, and it can consume us like the ground that swallowed Korach. But if instead we turn our jealousy upward, Hashem can answer us with compassion and understanding and grant our desire, even if it truly is enough!
 Dov Ber Pinson, Spiral of Time series, (Tammuz and Av), pg. 16
 Dov Ber Pinson, Spiral of Time series, (Tammuz and Av), pg. 16
 Rebbetzin Henny Machlis, Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, pg. 478
 Rebbetzin Henny Machlis, Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, pg. 479