By Rabbi Daniel Levy, November 27, 2008

"And may the Almighty give you (repeatedly) from the dew of the skies and the fatness of the earth, an abundance of corn and wine" Genesis 27:28

V Judaism does not view material possessions with disdain but it does require that we enjoy them in a measured way. There are a number of reasons for this, among them the Torah's statement: "Yeshurun became fat and rebelled" (Deuteronomy 32:15). Having too much of a good thing can make a person arrogant and lack gratitude to God. Moreover, in Ethics of the Fathers, Hillel taught: "One who increases possessions increases worries" (Avot 2:8).

The blessing that Isaac gave Jacob included the well-known verse (cited above) that Jacob, and indeed his descendants, should have more food than they need. But how much is more? More essentially means that a person never goes without and that he has some left over to help others. It is not a state of blessing if he becomes lost in his excess bounty and thereby loses focus of his purpose in life.

Some people are experiencing "no" for the first time in their lives. "No" to credit, "no" or a new house, new car or new sofa, "no" to new clothes or electrical gadgets It has come as a shock to them. But strangely, many still have far more than they actually need and remain unhappy.

One of my teachers once said that no aspect of human behaviour is good or bad per se, rather it is how we apply it and in what measure. It is for this reason that the Hebrew word middah means virtue/vice and also measure, since it is the measure of something that determines whether it is a virtue or vice.

Blessings are relative, sometimes a lot is better than a little. Other times, a little is better than a lot. Essentially, it is how we view life and what we do with what God gives us that makes our existence a curse or a blessing.

Last updated: 11:51am, November 27 2008