Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Falling from the SPIRITUAL into the MATERIAL World


Not too long ago, I went to a Shiur where the Rabbi told us participants to fulfill the Mitzvot and live a religious lifestyle. None of the listeners said a word but most of us ten people probably thought the same: How can we make such a religious lifestyle come true for us ? And surely, each of us had his individual list in his mind saying that we are not willing to give up this and that.

I was the only one who eventually said something by telling the Rabbi that I sometimes need a break. Not a break from G – d, religion or the Torah but simply spending some time with myself. Reading a normal book, watching a movie, going out for a coffee, etc. It is important to have a balance in life and not overdue religion.

The participants stared at me but the Rabbi kept cool. “What you are saying sounds like I AM DOING THE MITZVOT BUT NOW I NEED A BREAK. IT’S COMMERCIAL TIME ! Just like being in the middle of a movie (meaning, keeping Torah Mitzvot) and suddenly there is a break (my way of finding a balance)”.

As you can imagine, the Rabbi told me not to go for commercials but to force myself to remain in the middle of the movie.

“What does material pleasure does to you ? Is there anything eternal in it ?” the Rabbi asked. 

I started thinking whether there actually is anything eternal in me going to enjoy a cup of coffee or watching a movie. Of course, there is not and most of such activities provide us with temporary pleasure or satisfaction. Even when we go out with friends.

The Rabbi is right and there is nothing eternal in “taking a break activities”. However, I still enjoy them and claim that all this is human !


  1. What is wrong with drinking coffee?
    The material world (the permissible things in it) are meant to be elevated. The gemara says Rava (I think) ate spiced meats and drank wine because it opened his mind.

  2. B"H

    I am a great fan of the Israeli coffee chain AROMA. Not all their Israeli branches are kosher. Some are open on Shabbat, some sell Chametz and milk and meat together. However, usually I go to the kosher branches which have a MEHADRIN Hechsher from the Chief Rabbinate.

    I know that many Chassidim don't accept the Rabbanut Hechsher and their claims are true. The Rabbanut Mashgichim are a mess.

    Nevertheless, I love AROMA coffee.:-)))))

    I don't think that G - d created us only to sit and study. Only to think about Torah and Mitzvot. There are other things in life and many frum Jews forget to enjoy nature. To look at the sea or a great landscape and think of creation.

  3. The problem is in enjoying physicality. The problem is when that physicality becomes almost a type of addiction or something you cannot live without. This can make you forget the essential and hinder you from something more important.

    Take the example of someone who drink to much coffee. He reaches a point he cannot live without, and even on a fast day when it is forbidden to drink (like on YK), he will take, some minutes before the fast, a caffeine pill to make sure that he has his dose.

    There is nothing wrong to relax, but to much relax is dangerous...

  4. B"H

    Thanks for the advice. However, I would be grateful if someone was able to invent a coffee "kasher le'Yom Kippur". :-)))))