Saturday, February 8, 2020

Maximize your Pleasure!

Brachos 37

The great nineteenth century German rabbi, Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, once took a holiday in the Swiss Alps.
“With all due respect, Rebbe,” exclaimed one of his younger colleagues, “don’t you have important religious and communal matters to attend to?”
“My dear Moishe,” replied Rabbi Hirsch, “after 120, when I reach the Heavenly court and the Almighty asks me, ‘Nu, Shamshon’ke, what did you think of my Alps?  Did you experience and appreciate all My awesome creations?’  How will I respond?”

בַּתְּחִלָּה מְבָרֵךְ עָלָיו ״שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיֶה בִּדְבָרוֹ״, וּלְבַסּוֹף ״בּוֹרֵא נְפָשׁוֹת רַבּוֹת וְחֶסְרוֹנָן עַל כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָאתָ״
כמו לחם ומים שאי אפשר בלא הם ועל כל מה שברא להחיות בהם נפש כל חי כלומר על כל מה שבעולם שגם אם לא בראם יכולין העולם לחיות בלא הם שלא בראם כי אם לתענוג בעלמא כמו תפוחים וכיוצא בהן

Gemara: The preceding blessing over it is “that everything is made by His word.”  And subsequently, “(Blessed are You Hashem our G-d, King of the world), Who creates many souls (Borei Nefashos) and their deficiency over everything You created (to give life with them the soul of every living thing. Blessed be the Life-force of the universe).”

Tosfos: “He creates many souls and their deficiency,” such as bread and water, without which it is impossible to survive. And for everything He created to enliven the soul of all the living with them. This refers to everything is in the world, that even had He not created them, the world could still live without them. For He created them merely for our pleasure, such as apples and the like.  

The Borei Nefashos bracha that we make after various foods is a powerful testament to G-d’s love for us and a tool to engender our love for Him.  In the blessing, we thank Him for not just providing us with bread and water, but for all the delicacies this world has to offer. 

In the Shema, we are commanded, “And you shall love Hashem, your G-d.”  The commandment is a difficult one to understand.  Presumably, either you love something, or someone, or you do not.  How can an emotion be commanded?

Maimonides explains (Yesodei HaTorah 2:2), “What is the path to love . . .  Him?  When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations . . .”  Love for G-d is attainable with a little thought and effort.  When you think about His amazing deeds and creations, you cannot help but be overcome with a powerful feeling of love and fondness for Him. 

What does contemplating His deeds entail?  It means thinking about all the amazing things He has granted you in your life: your health, your parnassah (livelihood), nachas (family pride), and so on. 

What does contemplating His creations entail?  It means thinking about all His wondrous creations and the pleasures you’d be missing out in your life if He hadn’t created them.  Thinking about everything He has created that gives you pleasure, how could you not be overflowing with love for Him?  And that’s the meaning of the Borei Nefashos prayer.

G-d wants us to enjoy His world.  Why would He have created a beautiful universe replete with mountains, forests, oceans, as well as exotic fruits and other delicacies, if not to enjoy them?  Every bit of pleasure that we derive from the work of the Creator, and acknowledge as such, we fulfil the mitzvah of loving G-d!

According to one school of thought, the entire reason Hashem created the world was in order to give us pleasure!  G-d is good.  But you can’t be good in a vacuum.  Being good means doing good.  And that’s why He created us – in order to bestow goodness upon us.  The more pleasure we derive from this world, the more pleasure and satisfaction G-d, so to speak, derives.

Pleasure is not a sin.  It’s a duty.  When you enjoy the pleasures of this world and acknowledge Who has given them to you, you’ve made your Father in Heaven “happier” than you can imagine.  You’ve fulfilled your mission and His will.  May you maximize your enjoyment of all the kosher pleasures of this world! 

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