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Thought for the Day: The Pleasures of This World Are Precious to the Torah Jew

When people at work comment on how calm I am when the world around us is falling apart, I just remind them, "I've been through three teenagers.  What can you do to me?"  One of our children, however, actually started giving us trouble even before she was born.  Long story short, a couple of weeks before she was born, her placenta suffered a trauma.  Those were probably the longest two weeks of my life as the situation was critical for both mother and baby.  For two weeks we were very focussed on the health and well-being of that placenta.  Then she was born and I couldn't tell you the last time I had a second thought about that placenta (before today, of course).

What happened?  That placenta went from center of my universe to effectively non-existent in the blink of an eye.  It's obvious what happened, one moment that lump of flesh and blood was enabling my daughter to become an organism that could live in this world, the next moment I was holding her in this world.  As important as that placenta had been, it never had any intrinsic value at all.  In case it's not obvious, I am using this as a mashal (parable) to understand how a Torah Jew relates to this world.

There are two ma'amarie Chazal that seem to contradict each other.  One says that before one prays that Torah wisdom enter his mind, he should pray that מעדנים/delicacies not enter his body.  Yikes!  Sounds like the ideal Jew should be looking for ways to be as miserable as possible in this world!  On the other hand, the Yerushalmi Talmud says that a person will be taken to task for every permitted pleasure in this world to which one did not avail oneself.

[As an aside, I heard R' Fuerst apply this Chazal l'halacha.  Someone called and to say he saw a fruit at the grocery that he had never seen before, that was priced at $5.00 per piece!  The caller wanted to know if he could make a sh'he'chiyanu just on seeing the fruit.  R' Fuerst said that he could, but (knowing the caller's financial status) gave him mussar; he quoted that Chazal and told him it was well worth the $5.00 just to taste it... even without the sh'he'chiaynu.]

So what is it?  We eschew the pleasures of this world, or we want a long pleasurable life in this world?  Says the Kuzari (Ma'amar 3), the true Torah Jew (oveid HaShem/servant of G-d) wants both.  This world offers a myriad of opportunities to acquire a myriad -- and more -- of dimensions of perfection and connections to the Author of Reality.  That is our real life and eternity of existence.  This world is purpose built (created, actually) to provide those opportunities in the best possible way.  We were then lovingly placed here by our Creator to grow into and become an eternal being able to unbounded happiness and pleasure forever.

For a few fleeting moments we are immersed in this very, very important world; then next thing you know, though, and we are in the arms of our Creator, our Father, our King forever.


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