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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5772

Ein Ayah: Contributors to Long Life

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:22)

Gemara:     There are three things that lengthen a person’s life: One who lengthens his prayers, one who lengthens his [stay at the] dinner table, and one who lengthens [his stay] in the toilet.


Ein Ayah:    A person should always strive for a perfect balance in his aspirations. While it is certainly proper to aspire to lofty spiritual heights and immersion in Torah and fear of Hashem, one should also try to ensure that his aspirations should not wipe out another positive area of interest, even if it seems at first glance that the secondary area of interest is opposed to his main interest. Rather, he should try to complete himself in all ways. As such, the loftier goal should not detract from the value of the more mundane goal, assuming that the latter is one that is needed for the lives of mankind.

The greatest needs that a person has are the spiritual ones, particularly his closeness to Hashem, which is the pinnacle of all desired goals. This is epitomized by one who puts great effort into his prayers, which often causes him to engage in prayer for a long time in a manner that is appropriate.

However, we would not want one’s spiritual aspirations to cause him to minimize the importance of people’s physical needs, especially when it comes to one’s generosity and concern for the needs of the poor and needy. Even when one’s spirituality is taking him to the highest divine spheres, he should know that there are people who are tormented by their state of hunger and lacking. In order to stay in touch with such needs, he has to lower himself, to the appropriate degree, from the type of spirituality that is epitomized by long periods of prayer. This is what the Rabbis are hinting at when they speak of also spending a long time at his dinner table. As the gemara says, this can be important because maybe a poor person will come along and the homeowner will be able to give the needy person what he is lacking.

These two elements, spirituality and generosity, while different, share the following common thing: they are greatly important matters. However, a human being is still a human being, and he needs to know that his soul was put into a body that is part of the animal kingdom. He should realize that he has no right to ignore even the smaller needs of the body in their proper measure. Only when he considers all his needs will he succeed in possessing a healthy body, which is needed for the welfare of the body and the spirit. As an example, the gemara talks about one of the lowlier needs of the body, the need of elimination, which one does at the toilet. Even when one is on a high level of wisdom and generosity, he is reminded to not look down upon small physical maters, which he should use to further his service of Hashem.

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