Shabbat Parashat Pinchas 5771
Ein Ayah: What To Do With Worldy Pleasures(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 7:7)
Gemara: The host breaks the bread so that he will cut generous pieces, and the guest blesses so that he can bless the host.
Ein Ayah: The key to putting physical enjoyment on the correct path is that when one enjoys that which makes life pleasant, he will want to use it to improve someone else’s life. This is the foundation of a life of kindness and compassion, which becomes strengthened when one does acts of increasing the enjoyment and happiness of others. For this reason the host breaks the bread so that he can cut generous pieces, as one should be happy when he is blessed with physical success so that he can share it with others broadly.
This idea should also shape one’s outlook toward his own physical pleasures. When a person does not take part in a normal physical life, it is likely that he will disregard the physical needs of his counterpart. While it is possible for one to pass up on worldly pleasures, this is not feasible for most people, most of whom need to enjoy physical life, and one should not deprive them.
When it comes to berachot, it is appropriate to stress hakarat hatov (appreciation of the good one has received), which is the basis of both the spiritual life and the ethical physical life. By the guest blessing the host, hakarat hatov becomes part of his personality. If one is appreciative of the small contributions of his host, he should have a greater and more significant appreciation of the great good he receives from his Maker. Hashem wants that the person who appreciates Him should at the same time improve his approach to all elements of life.
Even when a person eats alone, he can view it in some ways as if he is both a host and a guest. The physical pleasure that one gets is, on one hand, something that should be valued. On the other hand, it is not a fundamental thing, and there is an inestimably higher goal for which he is to strive. Again, this is not to delegitimize the physical pleasure, which actually prepares a person for such high goals as knowing how to do justice, gain wisdom, and act in a proper manner.
In order to show the balance, one should approach the matter as follows. While he is enjoying, he should be happy with that which he received through his toil. \HowHowHowever, when he finishes and is ready to leave the lower-level involvements, he should raise his spirit to truly lofty matters, such as exposing himself to the light of knowing the living G-d. This is the idea behind Birkat Hamazon at the end of a meal. It is fine for one to temporarily view himself as his own host and “owner” of his portion in this world and enjoy the pleasures of the here and now. However, this is on condition that afterward he will lift himself up to a higher level and view himself as a guest vis a vis the physical and strive for a higher goal of the light of the real (spiritual) life. From the position of a lofty outlook, he can even bless himself as the owner/host in respect to his physical state. This is appropriate because when all of his actions are done with the proper motivations and he cares first and foremost about his spiritual state, every element of his life will be positive, including the worldly physical part. He will be able to do acts of kindness and goodness with great splendor.
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