By way of preface:
The "Jewish Spirituality" mailing list is an outgrowth of several conversations in which people told me that they felt "alone" in their quest to develop their relationship with Gd. I knew they weren't alone, just from my own interactions with other people, and so I extended an invitation to the Jewish community of Rhode Island to join in a weekly mailing list exploring issues within their relationship with HaShem.
Many of the messages posted on the list reflect people's personal struggles and sensitivities. As a result, some of the people who post remarks on this list opt to do so anonymously; they send me the e-mail, and I drop their names. The list is "blind cc'd," as well, so that no one knows who else is on the list. Our goal is that the members of this list should draw strength and inspiration from the words of their peers, and thereby continue to develop as Jews.
If you would like to join the list, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Jewish Spirituality - Volume 17
Re: Volume 14
Subject: Re: Volume 14
By: Mordechai Torczyner
> It was pretty negative, to say the least, with regard to this world. He
> seems to say that as far as the soul is concerned, this world is
> meaningless, except in the sense of achieving for the next world. But what
> about the accomplishments of the soul here? Doesn't that bring the soul
> some pleasure?
If I understand your question correctly, you are asking whether the soul enjoys doing good things in this world (separate from the effect this has on the soul's existence in the next world).
I will base my answer on the following passage from Avos deR' Nasan (it also appears in various other places in Midrash):
"It is better (Yafah) to have an hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than to have one's entire existence in the next world.
"It is better (Yafah) to have an hour of satisfaction (Koras Ruach) in the next
world than to have one's entire existence in this world."
This is a difficult passage; what does "better (Yafah)" mean? The use of "Yafah" seems to indicate a pleasing, enjoyable experience. (Had the Midrash meant an objective or functional "good," it would have said, "Tovah.")
In that case - and I stress that this is only one possible reading - I would say that the first half means we should find pleasure in the good deeds we perform here, and our maintenance of a positive Torah lifestyle, for our accomplishments here have more meaning than the entire "next world."
The second half, though, is telling us that as much pleasure as we may take in our Mitzvos here, it is nothing compared to the enjoyment we will have in the next world from the results of our behavior here.
So, to answer your question, I think the soul finds satisfaction and enjoyment from its deeds here - but nothing compared to the satisfaction it will ultimately reap.
I think this is what the Mesillas Yesharim meant, as well. He cited a Midrash on Koheles in the passage I quoted in Volume 14: "Koheles states, 'And the soul will not be filled.' To what may this be compared? To a villager who marries a princess. Even if he brings her everything in the world, it will not be significant to her, for she is a princess. Similarly, if one gives the soul all of the delicacies of this world, it is nothing to the soul. Why? Because the soul is from the upper worlds."
This led the Mesillas Yesharim to say: "The soul has no love for this world, at all. Just the opposite, the soul despises this world."
The emphasis is on this world, and the elements of this world, which are compared to a peasant's delicacies. The soul will not enjoy a burgher's burger, or a bed's bedding; these thrill the body, not the soul. The soul will enjoy, though, helping other people and studying Torah.
This leaves us with one question - what about areas in which the pleasures of this world mix with the pleasures of the next world? Using a fine wine for Kiddush? Visiting the Canadian Rockies and using them to augment one's recognition of Divine greatness? Isn't the soul's enjoyment derived from this world?
Have a good Shabbos,
Our Weekly Jewish Spirituality E-mail
E-mails are generally sent out on Friday mornings, Eastern Daylight Saving Time. You need not live locally to be added to this mailing list. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added; there's always room for more people, and there is no fee!
Back to the main Spirituality page
Back to the Main Page