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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Simple Pleasures

Yoma 75

Do I appreciate the small pleasures in life?

Following the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, the serpent is cursed with, “the dust shall be his bread.”  Rabbi Ami explains that this means that no matter what he would eat, it would taste like dust.  Rabbi Assi explains that the meaning of the verse is that the serpent would never be satisfied until he ate dust.   Rabbi Yose says that this is a hidden blessing – ultimately, the serpent was told by G-d that he would be able to find food everywhere!

We spend our lives running from one pleasure to another.  If we’ve tasted one delicacy, we need to try the next big thing.  We try new restaurants, new delectable treats for our palate, but in time, we find that we need something else to tickle our taste buds. We buy beautiful cars and then get bored of them after the novelty quickly wears off.  After a while, it all just feels like dust and we’re seeking something else to get us excited.  In the end, every worldly pleasure just tastes like dust.

If I would take a mental leap forward and imagine how I would feel about this material pursuit that I’m currently considering, I would realize that sooner or later, it will feel like dust, so why bother with the pursuit of material pleasures that will become meaningless?  Instead, let me begin by understanding that, like the snake, I will only ever be satisfied by eating the dust.  If this is the case, I should enjoy the simplest of pleasures of life, realizing that that is all I need.   


And like Rabbi Yose points out, what a blessing this is!  Simple pleasures are to be found everywhere.  If every bite I take, I thank G-d for giving me a taste that millions of people in the world don’t have; if every book I read, I thank G-d for granting me a literacy and education that millions others don’t have; if every glass of clean water I drink, I thank G-d for bestowing His bounty upon me, I will find that life is so much simpler and more pleasurable, and that ultimately, bigger and better dust is just the same dust.