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Pleasure in This World


Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

30 Nisan 5765
How is it we are told to refrain from pleasure in this world to learn every spare second and not be connected to the outside world, so many Mitzvot give reward in this world (Eilu Devarim Sh’adam Ochel Peiroteihem B’olam Hazeh) so many Tanaim worked and were wealthy, and the jews went into Israel a land of milk and honey that sounds pretty "Gashmiastic", no?
Many statements in Tanach and rabbinic literature allude to the permission and need to enjoy this world within the borders of Torah and Halacha. (Kohalet11,9; Mishlei 13,25; Yerushalmi Kidushin 4,12; Yerushalmi Nedarim 9,1; etc.) The Mishna (or rather Braita) in Avot 6, 4; seems to recommend that one should refrain from any earthly pleasure and engage in Torah study solely. The Rambam interprets this Mishna to say that even if one does not have but bread, water and a floor to sleep on he should not prevent himself from Torah study because his difficult circumstances. More, the Mishna in Avot (2; 2) recommends combining work and study; the bodily pleasures are there to enjoy but should not take you out of focus. A proper balance between the two is essential. The normal Jew should engage in torah study and make it his main focus in life (if not in time - at least in importance) in addition to his work; those who want to dedicate their life to Torah and focus on only studying will be blessed but that is not the requirement from all. (See Tosfot Sanhedrin 7a)
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