the Physical, the Intellectual and the Spiritual Pleasures Compared

            June 2013    
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The Three Levels of Pleasure

By Rami Aloni

There are three levels of pleasures, one above the next. Each level of pleasure is geared for a certain level of being.

The first level is the basic level that all people have; thia is the physical level of enjoyment. It requires no prerequisite, just a human body. Pleasure is accessed through physical activity such as eating, drinking or the such. When a person is hungry and fulfils his hunger by eating or drinking tasty food, it is an act of pleasure. There is no need for a person to be a gourmet to get pleasure from good food or drink, just eat, drink and be merry. This is the basic level of pleasure that is available to everyone who possesses a body.

The second level is that of the pleasure of the intellect. There is for this level a prerequisite, an intellectual ability such as a common language or a learned skill. A joke is an intellectual pleasure, but to enjoy a joke one must know the language and the terminology used in the joke. Problem solving is another form of intellectual pleasure. There exists or is presented a problem and by coming up with the proper solution gives pleasure to the person who solves the problem. What intellectual pleasures have in common is that reviewing them brings back the pleasure. Someone who knows a funny joke can reminisce about it in his mind and derive pleasure again from it which is something that can not be done well with a physical pleasure.

The intellectual pleasure does not have the intensity of physical pleasure but intellectual pleasures have an advantage over physical pleasures in that they can be invoked at will.

The third and highest level of pleasure is that of the spiritual. Whereas the intensity of the spiritual pleasure does not have the intensity of that of the physical or the intellectual, the advantage of spiritual pleasures is that they are lasting pleasures. The pleasure is lasting both in this world and in the next. The problem is that to achieve a spiritual pleasure requires much training more training than the intellectual pleasure and therefore unavailable to the vast majority of people.

It was only the great rabbis who have achieved the level of spiritual pleasure in this world but the reason that most people can not access spiritual pleasure in this world is that we lack the 'tools' to access them. The good news is that the spiritual pleasures are accrued for us in the next world.

Mitzvoth are the vehicle for accruing pleasure in the next world. As we leave the physicality of this world and transcend into the next world, we become enabled to access the pleasure of the spiritual. Since we are creatures of the physical we can not fathom in this physical world the spiritual. All of our concepts of the spiritual are engarmented in physical concepts; we can not leave the physical in this world. Every perception of spiritual that we have is gathered by our understanding of the physical and that is not sufficient to enable us to leave the physical to get into the reality of the true spiritual world.

Only after we leave this world, the physical aspects of being become negated and our relationship to our body ceases to occupy our essence. Then, and only then, can we enjoy the pleasures of the spiritual, the pleasure of the mitzvoth that we worked so hard in this world to earn.

Woe to him who has abandoned the mitzvoth in this world, for instead of the pleasure that should be his in the next world, will exist only the pain of an empty world devoid of any pleasure. There is no reward in this world for doing a mitzvah; there is nothing great enough in this world to be a reward for a mitzvah, it is only when we leave the physical and enter into the world of the spiritual that we can properly be rewarded for a mitvah.


from the June 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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