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.Jay Grossman