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Shabbat Parashat Naso 5775

Ein Ayah: Spirituality Does Not Dampen Physical Comfort

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:29)

Gemara: One who is careful about mezuza will merit an attractive house. One who is careful about tzitzit will merit an attractive garment. One who is careful about Kiddush will merit filling barrels of wine.


Ein Ayah: There are people who believe a life of broadening physical pleasures is a correct priority because a healthy human spirit desires to live in physically appealing surroundings that give pleasure to his spirit. They wrongly think that the only way one will be able to satisfy his spirit is by putting physical pleasure at the center of his life goals, and then perhaps he can fulfill his desires. He thinks that if his inner goal is for a spiritual, eternal foundation and if material abundance will only be a means by which to achieve success in Torah and mitzvot, then the foundation of his life will be limited. He feels that then he will be living an unnatural life, considering that his spirit yearns for pleasure and aesthetics. In order to prevent these perceived wrongs, such people turn the secondary into the primary. 

But actually, those people are embracing a falsehood. It is true that physical pleasures are a natural human tendency, but that does not mean that the pursuit of these pleasures should be the goal of life. Rather, the element of sanctity should be the basis for life, as it is a “fruit” that lasts forever.

Since there are great spiritual levels to be sought and it takes great efforts to succeed, a lot of physical preparations are needed to make that essential goal a reality. Therefore, a person should not exaggerate in the other direction and say, for example, that the only benefit of having a house is to be able to fulfill the mitzva that is connected to it (i.e., mezuza). That indeed would contradict the natural inclination in man to desire a broad and attractive house for its own sake. Rather, one should make the spiritual into the main goal even as the embellishment of the physical side goes hand-in-hand with it. That is why the gemara says that one who puts up a mezuza will merit an attractive house.

Similarly regarding garments, while their main purpose is to allow people to fulfill mitzvot, one need not remove a desire for nice garments, which can indeed be a positive consequence of being careful about the mitzva of tzitzit. Similarly concerning wine, even though wine should not be for simple pleasure alone, one should not think that the proper outlook closes the door on pleasures of life. Rather, he can look forward, through the mitzva of Kiddush, to have barrels of wine.

It is just that one who focuses specifically on the material will not reach the sanctity of lofty ideas and have the most refined happiness in life. Rather, the overly materialistic will be emotionally distraught when he grows old [and he loses interest in these things]. In contrast, those who look toward Hashem and see life as a good medium to achieve real goodness will see blessing even in that which is only a means to a goal, and they will be able to be happy in all situations. They will view their material gifts as aids in reaching a lofty level of spirituality and will love Hashem. That will allow the nice house, clothes, and wine to have great value as reward for putting one’s priorities in the right place – focused on the spiritual, with its mitzvot and sanctity in the center.

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