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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘pleasure’

Ancient Biblical Gardens “Bloom” Again

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

According to livescience.com, a newly discovered 7th century B.C. palace garden near Jerusalem could reveal details about how royals liked to let loose in ancient times.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Germany’s Heidelberg University uncovered the royal garden at the site of Ramat Rachel, a kibbutz (communal farm) in Israel, and are leading the first full-scale excavation of this type of archaeological site in Israel.

“We have uncovered a very rare find,” archaeologist Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University said.

The garden was a massive and lush green space royals would use to relax. Such pleasure spots were once the ultimate symbol of power, according to the researchers.

Learning To Enjoy This World

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

“And He does kindness to thousands of generations, to those who He loves and those who guard His mitzvos.” – Shemos 20:6

In the Aseres Ha’Dibros we are told Hashem pays back the wicked for four generations and the righteous for two thousand generations. Rashi explains the ratio of two thousand to four comes out to be five hundred to one. This teaches us the measure of good to bad in the world is five hundred to one.

This Rashi is very difficult to understand. If the Torah is teaching us Hashem created the world with an operating principle that the good outweighs the bad by a measure of five hundred to one, this doesn’t seem to be consistent with reality.

Granted, life is good – but can anyone say the “pleasures” outweigh the “pains” five hundred to one? Five hundred to one means the rough spots in life are so overshadowed by the enormity of good that they are almost nonexistent. For every headache I endure, I enjoy five hundred times the pleasure. For every stomach cramp I suffer through, I benefit from five hundred measures of delight. The problem is this just isn’t the way life is. How do we reconcile this Rashi with reality?

A Perspective on Pleasure

If we study the world, we find many features that have no functional purpose; if the world were created strictly from a practical standpoint, they would not be there. For example: tastes in food. Food is something we need to maintain our energy levels and health. If its only function were nutrition and nothing more, then all food should be taste like soggy cardboard. Yet it doesn’t. There are so many variations, each with its own unique flavor, texture, and aroma.

Why did Hashem create food this way? Why not make it all same? The reason is for our pleasure – so that eating, which we have to do, shouldn’t be a chore but in fact be delightful. Taste is something Hashem added solely for our benefit – for us to enjoy.

An awful lot of thought went into creating the different foods we eat. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, described an orange: When you peel it, you find wedges inside. If you look closely, each of these wedges is surrounded by a thin membrane. When you pull back the membrane, you see many tiny sacs. Inside each of those sacs is the juice of the orange. Why did Hashem created an orange in that manner, with thousands of little sacs? So that when you bite into the orange, the taste is released in a burst of flavor.

Hashem created those sacs so that there would be another dimension to our enjoyment. The sensation of eating an orange would be different without this feature. It still would have tasted delicious, but this is an additional aspect Hashem wanted us to enjoy, so He designed the orange that way.

Did you ever wonder why apples are red on the outside? Hashem made apples red because it is nicer to look at, and that makes the process of eating an apple more pleasing. The presentation adds much to the enjoyment of the dish. So Hashem designed foods to have eye appeal to enhance our experience of eating.

What happens when you bite into an apple? You don’t get that burst of flavor you got when you bit into an orange. You get a crunch. Why is that? Why not design all fruit the same? The reason an apple is crunchy is because it is fun to crunch on food. So when Hashem made apples, He designed the cells to form hard walls, so that when we bite into it, we get that crunch. It didn’t have to be that way. It was designed that way so we should enjoy it.

What about aroma? Each of the assorted foods not only has varied tastes and textures but markedly different smells, which contribute to our total enjoyment. When Hashem created food, He added this dimension of wonderful aromas to even further enhance our taste experience.

The food we eat comes in so many assorted flavors and textures, each one appealing to a different element of our tastes. Hashem re-planned and created all of this for us to enjoy.

And this is but one example of countless of features Hashem created strictly for our enjoyment. Hashem created, sights, sounds, textures, colors, depth and so many other features in this glorious world so that our experience here should be more pleasure filled. If the world was created for practical reasons only, all of this wouldn’t have to be. But Hashem put it all here, for us to enjoy.

Yet how often do we actually take the time to enjoy the foods we eat? How much attention do we pay to the sights we see? It takes training and concentration to consciously enjoy the life we lead. If we do, we will see a tremendous amount of detail and concern put in for our benefit. And we will see a tremendous demonstration of the kindness Hashem shows to man.

The Five-Star Hotel Called Life

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

After these matters, Hashem appeared to Avram in a dream and said, Do not fear, Avram. I will guard you. Your reward is great.’ ” – Bereishis 16:1

 

When Avraham Avinu was informed that his nephew Lot was captured, he waged war against the combined armies of the four kings. Miraculously, he was victorious and freed Lot.

After these events, Hashem appeared to Avraham and said, “Do not fear; your reward is great.” Rashi explains that Avraham was afraid that since this great miracle had been done for him, he had used up all of his merits and had no reward waiting for him in the World to Come. Hashem allayed those fears by saying, “Everything that I have done for you will not cost you. Do not fear; your reward is great.”

This Rashi is very difficult to understand. How is it possible that a man as great Avraham could have thought he used up all of his reward? After years of serving Hashem, surely the reward waiting for him was phenomenal.

The answer to this is based on viewing life from a different vantage point.

 

Pesach in Arizona

Imagine that your father-in-law invites you to join him for Pesach in Sedona, Arizona. This is the ultimate Pesach extravaganza. No expense is spared; the guests are showered with every imaginable luxury and amenity. A five-star hotel, French chefs, an 18-hole golf course on premises – the best of the best. You graciously accept and are ready to have the time of your life. But as it turns out, by the time Pesach comes around, things at work aren’t going well, and lately you’ve been fighting with your wife. As a result, you’re in the worst mood you’ve ever been in. For the nine days you are there, you barely leave your hotel room.

When the vacation is over, your father-in-law approaches the hotel manager, and says, “My son-in-law hardly ate the entire time he was here. He didn’t come to a single gala kiddush. He didn’t use the golf course. Not once did he step foot in the spa. Normally, I am not the type to complain. But I just can’t see paying the regular rate, so I’ve decided to pay half the bill, and expect you to waive the other half.”

How do you think the hotel representative would respond?

 

Earth: A Five-Star Hotel

This planet we occupy is a five-star hotel. We have every imaginable pleasure and amenity available to us. We enjoy majestic sights and experiences that constantly surround us. From magnificent floral scenes to exotic sea life, from the glory of the night sky to the clear aqua green of the ocean, from a flower in bloom to the plumage of a jungle parrot to the pomp and ceremony of a sunrise, this is a world created in Technicolor.

And more than that, we were given the tools with which to enjoy it. We have legs with which to walk and hands with which to hold. We have ears, a tongue, a nose, and fingers that bring us an astounding array of pleasures from the world around us. We have foods that explode with a burst of different flavors, aromas, textures, and colors. We are surrounded by untold pleasures and riches.

But more than anything, we have been granted the extraordinary privilege called life. We were given this golden opportunity to shape ourselves into what we can be for eternity. Is there any way to measure the value of life? Is it worth a million dollars? Ten million? A hundred billion? Is it even possible to put a value on our existence?

A Taste Of Eternity

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the Jewish year and it is also the strangest – because it seems to negate all that makes us human.

For this one day we step out of ourselves and become something else, something otherworldly. We are no longer part of this world as we know it. Denying our bodies food, drink, sex and any other possible physical pleasure, we act as if the normal impulses that make us human no longer exist. It is almost as if we have slipped out of physical life into immortality.

Perhaps that is what the Sages were trying to tell us when they said that Yom Kippur is the only time we say aloud the line, “Blessed is the name of His honorable majesty forever and ever (baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam vaed) in the recitation of the Shema.

Where did “baruch shem k’vod malchuto” originate? When Moses went up to heaven to receive the Tablets of the Covenant, he overheard the angels praising God with these words. When he returned to earth, he instructed the Jews concerning all the commandments he had received and he also taught them this sentence of praise.

But he said to them, “All the Torah and mitzvot I have given you I received openly from God, but this verse is something that I overheard the angels say when they praise the Holy One. I stole it from them, therefore say it in a whisper.”

It can be likened to someone who stole a jewel and gave it to his daughter, telling her, “All that I have given you, you may wear in public. But this jewel is stolen. Wear it only indoors!”

The Midrash continues, “Why, then, is it said aloud on Yom Kippur? Because then we are like angels, wearing white, not eating or drinking; nor do we have any sins or transgressions, for the Holy One Blessed Be He has forgiven all our transgressions” (Deuteronomy, Midrash Rabbah).

Usually, of course, we are not angels. Far from it. We have human needs and desires. We have impulses that can lead us into sin and transgression (but we also have the ability to channel them in a positive manner and live a good life).

We sin, all of us, in word, thought and deed. We are indeed human. The beauty of Judaism is that it recognizes our physical needs and our impulses. It does not seek to deny them but rather to regulate and control them.

Judaism is not about self-denial. The denial of the body is not praised or required. The pleasure of eating and drinking is acknowledged and is part of religious celebrations through seudat mitzvah, Shabbat and Yom Tov feasts. The act of eating is, however, controlled and regulated by the halachot of kashrut. Sexual desires are considered normal and positive (procreation is even the first of the 613 commandments) but they are controlled by the halachot of marriage and family relations.

So too the desire for wealth. We are not commanded to live lives of poverty, but we are told to share what we have with others through acts of tzedakah and to acquire our wealth honestly.

We know we are not without sin, which is why we are given the mitzvah and opportunity of confession and teshuvah, repentance. On Yom Kippur, however, we are given a taste of eternity, an experience of something otherworldly. We are like the angels, or as close to angels as human beings can get. When all physical needs are denied and canceled, we have a day during which we can concentrate on other matters – when we pray, think, contemplate and lift ourselves to a higher level of holiness and consciousness than normal.

Yom Kippur is the day of the soul. It is the one unique day in the year when we proclaim: “I’m a soul man.”

We begin with listening to the words of Kol Nidre, which conclude with the message “I have forgiven as you have asked” – the assurance that if we have properly repented during the last week, our sins have been blotted out. The burden of guilt has been lifted.

Yes, all during the day we continue to confess our sins, but that serves to make us aware of what we should avoid from now on and to help us plan a purer and holier life. We hear the words of Isaiah in the magnificent haftara of Yom Kippur that teaches us that all these actions, even fasting, are worthless if they do not lead to a life of help and caring for others.

And at the close of Yom Kippur, we experience an incredible inner joy when we move beyond consciousness of hunger into a feeling of renewed strength as we proclaim our most sacred beliefs.

We say the Shema, and the assertion that “The Lord is God” followed by the magnificent blast of the shofar – the shofar that proclaims liberty from sin and transgression, liberty from all that shackles the mind and the body.

At that moment we may not become angels, but we become something no less exalted – real menschen.

Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Title: Torah Tapestries: Bereshis

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Title: Torah Tapestries: Bereshis

Author: Shira Smiles

Publisher: Feldheim

 

   The winner of a Milken award for education, a popular fixture in Los Angeles and Darchei Binah seminary instructor who resides in the Israeli city of Ramat Bet Shemesh, globetrotting Shira Smiles has lent her learning to the public’s reading pleasure.

 

   A compendium of Smiles’s classroom lessons and the gilyonot she shares with attendees of her Shabbat shiurim, Torah Tapestries: Bereshis is an educational opportunity for students of many ages.

 

   Page three’s explanation of why Adam Kadmon and Kayin were sent eastward by disappointed HaKadosh Baruch Hu is a fascinating insight into the imagery and meaning of light, of the sun and of human culpability for evil. Hebrew is not a simple language; it spills over with subtle and not-so-subtle meaning.

 

   Olam Chesed Yiboneh lessons on pages 145-148 are so endearing that many a wife and husband, let alone marriage therapists, will certainly cherish them. By the time you finish pages 184-195, you’ll probably head to the phone or e-mail to share the expert insights about maturity and righteous olam asiya behavior that you’ll have just gained.

 

   Page 190′s lesson on emunah packs a punch to pick up a soul many levels. The lessons there and throughout the book are clearly explained for readers of various learning abilities.

 

   Insights and quotes from Torah figures over time are woven seamlessly into the fabric of Torah Tapestries: Bereshis. The 208-page hardcover will be on sale in the U.S. after the holidays. Israelis have been focusing on every word of the book since its Elul 5770 release. Buy it as soon as you can. Your soul will be better off for it.

 

   Yocheved Golani is the author of the e-book “It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge.”

Ashrecha Yisroel

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

   Rav Yerucham Levovitz asks the following question: Who is happier, the Jew with his religious obligations or the nations of the world? His answer is that beyond a doubt the Jew is happier. Rav Yerucham is not talking about the next world. He is discussing happiness in this world. What does he mean?

 

   Rav Yerucham quotes a story told by the Alter of Kelm about a non-Jewish philosopher who was impoverished. A king took pity on him and sent him a large sum of money. The next day, the philosopher returned the money and explained that he had always lived a simple life of contemplation, divorced from the pressures of everyday life.

 

   Now, with this great sum of money, he was suddenly faced with decisions to make about how to save the money, invest it, what to spend it on, etc. All the anxiety that he was now experiencing took away the pleasure he had formerly enjoyed when all he did was meditate and bask in the glow of his wisdom.

 

   Rav Yerucham is telling us that the Torah has a different perspective on the matter. The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) says, “When the salve is on your wound, eat what you desire, drink what you desire, bathe in cold or warm water, and you have nothing to fear.”

 

   The “salve” mentioned in the Gemara is the study of Torah and the wound is the yetzer hara. Although the yetzer hara is strong and can lead a person to sin, if the person is involved in Torah, then he will be able to control himself and will have nothing to fear from his yetzer hara.

 

   A person can lead a good, happy life in this world. There is no need to defer pleasure until the next life. So we see that a Jew who lives life according to the Torah and is able to control his yetzer hara can have the best of both worlds.

 

   Now that Shavuos is behind us and we are going into the summer, let us keep this idea of Rav Yerucham in mind. Summer is a time when people tend to relax standards as they seek to enjoy themselves more in the nice weather. How can we guard ourselves from slipping? The test comes with Torah. If we remain strong in our commitment to live life according to Torah, then we can rest assured that our pleasures will not lead us astray and then we will be the happiest of people.

Ashrecha Yisroel

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

   Rav Yerucham Levovitz asks the following question: Who is happier, the Jew with his religious obligations or the nations of the world? His answer is that beyond a doubt the Jew is happier. Rav Yerucham is not talking about the next world. He is discussing happiness in this world. What does he mean?

 

   Rav Yerucham quotes a story told by the Alter of Kelm about a non-Jewish philosopher who was impoverished. A king took pity on him and sent him a large sum of money. The next day, the philosopher returned the money and explained that he had always lived a simple life of contemplation, divorced from the pressures of everyday life.

 

   Now, with this great sum of money, he was suddenly faced with decisions to make about how to save the money, invest it, what to spend it on, etc. All the anxiety that he was now experiencing took away the pleasure he had formerly enjoyed when all he did was meditate and bask in the glow of his wisdom.

 

   Rav Yerucham is telling us that the Torah has a different perspective on the matter. The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) says, “When the salve is on your wound, eat what you desire, drink what you desire, bathe in cold or warm water, and you have nothing to fear.”

 

   The “salve” mentioned in the Gemara is the study of Torah and the wound is the yetzer hara. Although the yetzer hara is strong and can lead a person to sin, if the person is involved in Torah, then he will be able to control himself and will have nothing to fear from his yetzer hara.

 

   A person can lead a good, happy life in this world. There is no need to defer pleasure until the next life. So we see that a Jew who lives life according to the Torah and is able to control his yetzer hara can have the best of both worlds.

 

   Now that Shavuos is behind us and we are going into the summer, let us keep this idea of Rav Yerucham in mind. Summer is a time when people tend to relax standards as they seek to enjoy themselves more in the nice weather. How can we guard ourselves from slipping? The test comes with Torah. If we remain strong in our commitment to live life according to Torah, then we can rest assured that our pleasures will not lead us astray and then we will be the happiest of people.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/ashrecha-yisroel/2010/05/26/

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