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Thought for the Day: Pleasures Permitted and Forbidden

The adage goes: If it tastes good, it's fattening.  If it's fun, it's a sin.  We even have a sign on our refrigerator that says, "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels!"  (My daughter argues on that sign and has listed several foods that taste much better than being thin feels.)  And yet, the M'silas Yesharim tells us that his program is designed to helps us achieve the purpose for which we were created and put into this world, namely: to have the most fun and experience the most intense pleasure that is possible for a created being.  I know you'll be shocked, but I am siding with the M'silas Yesharim on this one.  On the other hand, we need to understand why and how the adage is going so wrong.  This is in partial fulfillment of the directive (Avos 2:14) to know what to answer the apikorus.

Shlomo haMelech tells us (Mishlei 5:3,4): The lips of the foreign woman are sweet like fresh honey, her palate smooth like oil.  [A relationship with her, however,] ends in bitterness like wormwood and is as sharp as the dual-edged sword.  The G"ra explains that the bitterness in the end corresponds to sweetness at the beginning; the sharp sword is the conclusion of that smooth talking.  The double edge of the sword firstly indicates that there is no "safe" side to hold; it's all destructive.  More than that, though, the destruction is of both worlds; Olam HaBah and Olam HaZeh!  Yikes.

This world is for no purpose other than to acquire the eternal life that can only be experienced in Olam HaBah.  That begs the question: if our permanent home is to be in the Olam HaBah, why are we here?  There is one thing that is possible only in Olam HaZeh; one absolutely critical experience without which there is no future, no eternity.  That experience is free will -- b'chira chofshitz.  To have free choice, there must be alternatives.  Those alternatives must be (in some sense) equal so that the only deciding factor is our own, unfettered and unconstrained free choice.

So why is everything fun a sin?  It's not.  It surely is true that sin is fun; otherwise there would be no draw and there would be no exercise of free will.  The issue is not that sin is fun.  The issue is that the yeitzer hara keeps directing you to look at the sinful activities so you won't notice that there are equally fun things to do that are not sinful at all!  Shlomo haMelech says the fun with the foreign woman ends badly.  The fun with the permitted woman -- that is in the context of a kosher marriage -- is just as fun and does not end badly!

That's the mashal.  The nimshal is any activity that is undertaken with no structure looks like it's going to be SOOO fun and always ends up SOOO boring or worse.  An activity undertaken with structure, though, just gets more and more fun.  Undertaken with the structure designed by our Creator, the Torah haK'doshah, is going to be the most fun of all.

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