What is the point of life? Pleasure? Come on!

I couple of days ago I wrote a small post about a shiur (class) I’d just listened to that was actually quite excellent. Yup, I listened to the whole thing! I know, it’s unbelievable.

Anyway, it’s called “Why be Jewish” by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky and at the end (I’m gonna wreck it for you right now but it’s still worth listening to) he said that according to the book Mesilat Yesharim (The Path of the Just) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the point of life is for us to have pleasure. And the greatest pleasure is to be close to HaShem.

Can we just focus on the first part of the answer for a moment? The point is to enjoy? To have pleasure? I definitely don’t remember learning that in Hebrew school. Oh, I mean, day school. Anyway I had a further discussion with someone about this and he said, in regards to his job, that the most important thing is that he’s having fun. ???? Really? And honestly, his explanation made sense to me. I will explain how I understand it.

We can put our heart and soul into something in life but we can never know how it will turn out. So we may as well be enjoying the process! Also, we need to keep at it (whatever “it” is) in order to allow there to be potential of “success” (whatever that is) so allowing the process to be enjoyable (instead of worrying all the time, will it even succeed) allows us to persue our goals/dreams.

Second, we are much more productive and creative when we’re getting pleasure out of what we’re doing. I understand from this the importance of trying to do something that is really part of you (for me, my writing).

How does that fit with the quote from Mesilat Yesharim? I suppose that when you’re doing something you really enjoy, it’s actually your soul saying that it’s being fulfilled in this world – that is the pleasurable feeling we get – and that is one of the ways to get closer to Hashem. Is that logical?

I still have issues with this. It does seem frivilous, but I can see how maybe it is the truth.

The post from two days ago includes a link to the class.

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2 thoughts on “What is the point of life? Pleasure? Come on!

  1. Jenny

    I don’t know if that’s how I’d interpret the quote. You say it’s important to receive pleasure from what you’re doing. Do you mean immediate pleasure? i.e. “I like what I’m doing right now”?

    Say, for example, a firefighter is running into a burning building. Is he thinking “yay I love fire”? well I’m sure some do. But I think the greater “pleasure” in his case is helping someone and possibly saving a life. For this reason I hesitate to call it pleasure but more like… “fulfilment?” I don’t know but I don’t like the word “pleasure” in this context. I hope you know what I mean :)

    I think by pleasure = being closer to Hashem the rabbi is referring to a “higher level” pleasure as well.

  2. This seems to be a very rabbinic sort of pleasure. The rabbis also said when they die the highest point to reach would be sitting at a table with a big plate of fish and studying with G-d. If that is the highest point what how is pleasure defined?

    “And the greatest pleasure is to be close to HaShem.” Is the process of getting close pleasurable? Does it have to be? When you are close what sort of pleasure is that? Is it material? Is it carnal? Is it emotional? Or is it spiritual?

    I would say that this pleasure is spiritual which means the emotional, carnal or material pleasures really have nothing to do with it. This is not about the best back rub or good book. It is about leaving that behind and cleaving to G-d.

    I cannot say that this makes sense to me. Perhaps one day I will be able to have that pleasure but, at this time, I have all the other three pleasures in my way.

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