- Ein Ayah
Gemara: That which [Yirmiya lamented], "I am separated from goodness" (Eicha 3:17), Rav Abba says is referring to [the lack of] a made bed and an adorned wife for talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars).
Ein Ayah: The content of tranquil, complete life is able to accommodate a harmony between the highest spiritual aspirations and natural interests. In such circumstances, even men who are whole-heartedly dedicated to wisdom and sanctity will be able to seamlessly incorporate into a well-designed life all the enjoyment that a person can have within a life of well-measured sanctity. This will not detract from his process of spiritual elevation or his love and dedication to Torah study. This is because when his spirit is in a state of tranquility, it is possible to give every element its proper measure. Then, even those physical desires that arguably detract from spiritual growth actually complement it. That is why all the goodness in the world, with pleasures that excite one’s heart, is promised to Israel when they strengthen their sanctity and connection to the true Torah.
It is true that a talmid chacham is expected to lovingly study with such diligence as to limit the great desire for sleep. However, in healthy situations, he will want that the little sleep that he has should be in a properly arranged bed. His dealing with abstract truths also will not kill his heart’s desire for the type of things that are appropriate for one who is complete in body and spirit. The pleasure that he will have when he spends time with the wife that Hashem granted him will put him in the best frame of mind when she is well dressed and adorned. This reaction is not minimized by his envelopment in Torah wisdom, contrary to popular belief.
All the above is when Israel is settled peacefully in its Land, but when they are in an unsettling state of exile, a complete, healthy spirit is rare. This causes a tendency toward extremes, in which one who is truly dedicated to diligent study cannot be in tune with normal physical life, and the desire for it must leave his heart. If he does want to incorporate this physicality in his life, it will take a great toll on his spiritual development.
When we see this deprivation from the physical good of thetalmidei chachamim, we will recognize the internal wound that exile has inflicted upon us, especially on the greatest among us. In this unnatural state, spirituality and physical enjoyment indeed do serve as counter forces. Physicality stunts spiritual growth, and spiritual growth removes one from physical enjoyment. This is not fundamental, as the Torah combines the world’s pleasures. Rather, exile ruins the workings of healthy life. The poisonous impact of unnatural life that depresses the nation’s spirit does not allow gathering together distant elements of life in a proper order. Then, only by distancing physical desires will it be possible to hold on to a remnant of scholars, who will merit being those who toil in Torah and wear its crown, thereby preserving the connection to Torah of the nation.
When looking at that situation, it causes us to bemoan our distance from the Land upon which Hashem’s eyes are always focused. The prophet mourns the removal of those who carry the banner of Torah from proper enjoyment of the order of the physical world. Leaving the world of harmony for the world of isolationism, which comes not from the nature of the Torah but from the necessities imposed by exile, is saddening. We are troubled that the men of spirit are no longer interested in the pleasure of seeing the woman with whom he joined in covenant in an adorned state. The fact that he needs to separate himself from physicality because of all the negative that is connected to it is a sign of unhealthy times. If only times were more complete, one engrossed in Torah thought could still use the Torah of truth to allow him to be connected to physical feelings as well. That is why Yirmiya lamented the separation from goodness, in regard to talmidei chachamim not having made beds or adorned wives.