This series is adapted from an English translation of Rav Itche Meir Morgenstern shlita’s sefer Yam HaChochmah. This foundational pamphlet, “Sod HaTaanug”, presents a deep perspective on our desire for pleasure and the intense battle with the yetzer hara our generation is fighting before the coming of Moshiach. We hope you enjoyed these essays, and please remember to share with family and friends!
The Pleasure Of Overcoming Bodily Lusts & Cravings
Finally, let’s talk about the pleasure in overcoming bodily cravings and urges. This is commonly referred to as the pleasure of self-control. Even when it’s hard for us to overcome a bodily urge or craving, our soul feels happy and fulfilled when we overcome the craving that the body wants. A person can feel a great inner whenever he overcomes any bodily urges, cravings, desires, or lusts. Certainly, self-control is challenging and requires effort on our part, but this doesn’t contradict the pleasure that we can feel deep inside as a result of not giving in to the body’s urges. Outwardly, it may feel difficult to overcome the desire. However, inwardly, our soul is rejoicing at how we are succeeding to overcome the desire. It is this satisfaction which our soul truly desires.
A proof to this is that after a person has put great effort into overcoming a bodily desire or craving and succeeds, he feels a tremendous sense of fulfillment, an awesome and wonderful light. The Torah’s ways are “ways of pleasantness”. The pleasantness of following the Torah isn’t always easy. While it is a very deep inner feeling of enjoyment, no one said it was going to be easy. Still, no matter how difficult the struggle to overcoming the body’s various urges may be, there is always a deeply pleasant feeling that sets in after the battle is won, an inner serenity that follows. This deep feeling tells us: “You have done the best possible thing for yourself, and that it was worth it to overcome the urge, because by overcoming the body’s desire, you have done what you needed to do.”
Living A Life of True Pleasure
Truly serving Hashem means that one is able to find a deep pleasure in every situation – not only when you feel the light and how sweet and pleasant our connection to Hashem is, but even when things are tough and one isn’t feeling tangible pleasure. When you have achieved this level, you can still know that in every situation, Hashem is with you and doing what’s best for you. When you know that Hashem is with you in every situation, this itself fortifies your connection and relationship with Hashem, and that is true pleasure.
This knowledge will give you the emotional strength to endure difficult times with serenity and joy, for you will be aware that Hashem is with you at all times and He never abandons you for a single moment. Any difficulty you find yourself faced with is simply a test. It is precisely through the difficult times that you can get even closer to the Creator.
Turning Physical Pleasures Into Holiness
Although the main pleasure we need to experience is the pleasure of the soul which enjoys only closeness with Hashem and the pleasantness that comes from enjoying Torah and mitzvos, we need to have the proper perspective on physical pleasures which are an inevitable reality in our lives.
As a rule, all physical pleasures that are permitted by the Torah are good and fine for us to enjoy – if we are using these physical pleasures as a tool in serving Hashem. If we only ingest physical pleasures without ever infusing these experiences with any meaning, and think that we are simply supposed to be enjoying these pleasures, this leads us into an life devoid of meaning, and the physical pleasures will cause us to abandon our relationship with Hashem.
But if we realize that all pleasures are powered by the G-dly light that sustains them, we merit to uncover the inner layer of pleasure. When we feel pleasure in eating food, for example, we should understand that the pleasure we are feeling is only because there is a G-dly light that is being clothed by the food, and that the real pleasure is the G-dly light, not the food. When we have this kind of thinking, we elevate the physical pleasure of food.
It all depends on what our thoughts are. Before engaging in a physical act of pleasure, and during the act of the pleasure as well, we should be aware that any pleasure we experience in these acts is the Creator’s light contained within the physical pleasure. As we enjoy permitted physical pleasures, we can learn how to direct our thoughts and channel them into focusing on the G-dly light clothed by the physical pleasure. In that way, we can transform all physical pleasures into a state of attaching ourselves with Hashem.
To the extent that our thoughts are holy and attached with Hashem as we engage in permitted physical pleasures – such as by feeling gratitude to Hashem that He allows us to feel these pleasures – so will we succeed in elevating and sanctify these physical pleasures, turning them into acts of holiness and transforming the physical pleasure into spiritual pleasure. The main thing to be aware of during all physical pleasure is the necessity of feeling the presence of the Creator amidst the pleasure.
In order to succeed in enjoying physical pleasure properly and elevating our physical pleasures by bringing Hashem into the picture, a great deal of Heavenly assistance is required. In general, there are three fundamental keys in elevating physical pleasure:
(1) Engaging in physical pleasures only to the extent that we need. If we take even a little bit more pleasure than we actually need, we become drawn into the external world of empty physical pleasure.
(2) Elevating our thoughts during acts of physical pleasure. For example, feel grateful to Hashem as you are enjoying the pleasure. The more pleasure you are enjoying, the more grateful you should feel to Hashem that He is allowing you to feel pleasure.
(3) Engaging slowly in the physical pleasure. For example, eat slowly. When a person is enjoying his food and eating quickly, it is because he is getting pulled further and further into the physical desire of the eating. If he would eat slower and more calmly, he would be able to regain control over his thinking process as he’s eating and thereby enter into the inner layer of the pleasure: to feel the pleasure of experiencing G-dly light (nitzotz Eloki) as he’s eating.
The only ones who truly enjoy life on this world are those who serve Hashem. It is those people who are with Hashem at all times and connected to Him even as they experience the physical pleasures on this world – the only true pleasure that can be found in life.
Thank you for joining us for this foundational series!