Physical Pleasure vs Spiritual Pleasure

So in Daf Yomi (Eruvin 53B) this morning, the Talmud said that you should seize every pleasure available to you today because tomorrow you might be dead. The Hasidic rabbi hastened to explain that the Talmud clearly means spiritual pleasure, the type you get from doing God’s commandments. For the first time in about five years of daf yomi, I interrupted, “But couldn’t the Gemara (Talmud) be talking about permitted physical pleasures?” No, said the rabbi, it means spiritual pleasure, not physical pleasure.
This blew my mind. I wonder if the rabbi was giving a Hasidic interpretation of the Talmud? I thought Judaism equally embraced physical and spiritual pleasure, and did not necessarily venerate the spiritual over the physical and vice versa.

A Chabad Jew tells me: I can see how the rabbi deduces this conclusion from that (dangerous) gemorah. I would love to bring arguments to both sides but morally speaking I’d have to agree with your Rabbi. I can think of countless tragic outcome from indulging in permitted physical pleasures (Rosie O’Donnell gaining even MORE weight is just one example) But kidding aside, Chassidus explains that physicality can have an even higher spiritual value once it is used to serve G-D. So yes, there are instances where we value physical “things” just as much or even more then spiritual ones but only for their higher spiritual potential. Besides I can’t see how a person can get closer to G-D or just minimally serve G-D if he (or she, you politically correct liberal!) is constantly busy pursuing physical pleasures.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Talmud. Bookmark the permalink.