Daf Yomi Yevamos 76
At one time, King David was forced to flee Jerusalem due to the revolt of his son, Absalom. En route, he was shown kindness by Barzilai the Gileadite. Upon his restoration to the throne, David wanted to reward Barzilai with a state pension and the ability to enjoy the pleasures of life in the capital. Barzilai, however, declined. He had spent a lifetime indulging in the desires of the flesh and could no longer even taste physical delights!
Rabbi Judah quoted Samuel: If the male member was punctured and sealed and it would tear open when he has a seminal discharge, he is unfit for marriage into the community; but if not, he is kosher.
Rava the son of Rabba sent to Rabbi Joseph: Rebbe, teach us, what do we do to determine that?
Abaye responded: We display colourful women’s clothing in front of him.
Rava retorted: Is everybody like Barzilai the Gileadite?
Rashi explains: Even such a modest stimulus was enough to evoke Barzilai’s desires in his youth. Ultimately, his overindulgence accelerated his aging process until he no longer could taste any pleasure.
We were given this physical world to enjoy in moderation. When you overindulge, life becomes tasteless and meaningless. Since the pleasures of this world are physical, they are limited. There’s only so much pleasure you can extract from this world. At a certain point, you hit a pleasure ceiling and there’s nothing left to enjoy.
Do you think the person with one hundred million dollars is any happier than the person with one million dollars? There isn’t much more you can do with an extra 99 million! So you build a bigger house. You buy a fancier car. You take vacations over and over. Even steak every night gets boring!
Not so with spiritual delights. Since spirituality is unlimited, there is no end to the pleasure one can get from learning Torah and doing mitzvos. The more you do, the more pleasure you get; yes, even in this world! The feeling of delight that you get in figuring out a Tosfos (commentary on the Talmud) is indescribable – we should all be lucky to learn a small fraction of the Tosfos during our short lifetimes!
I mentioned to someone recently to get involved in a certain shul project. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the headspace for that at the moment,” he tells me. But he’s wrong! When it comes to spirituality, you have unlimited headspace! That’s the nature of spirituality. It doesn’t work like the physical world where you max out on space, time and pleasure. Your neshama (soul) is part of the Almighty and therefore there’s no limit to what you can accomplish!
Enjoy life! But understand that physical pleasures are limited. Spiritual pleasures are limitless. May you merit gaining more and more spiritual pleasure with each further day you enjoy this world!