Pirkei Avot 6:11: Kedushat Levi: Pleasure Print

Pirkei AvotAll that the Holy One, Blessed is He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory, as it is said, “All that is called by My Name, indeed, it is for My glory that I have created it, formed it, and made it (Isaiah 43:7).” And it says, “God shall reign for all eternity (Exodus 15:18).” [Avot 6:11]


On the verse, “At your right hand stands a queen in gold of Ophir (Psalms 45:10),” our Rabbis commented: “because Israel loves the Torah as much as the nations of the world love physical.

This presents a difficulty. Why was this lust in particular compared to Israel’s love of Torah? Do not the nations cherish any other pleasures?

The answer is as follows: When you contemplate an act of lust, whether sexual or other, reflect that it comes from God, “and everything that God created in His world He created for His glory.” God is the end and purpose of this covetous thought, and the cause of the thoughts occurring in your mind.

Now, a thing’s purpose and cause is always more important than the thing itself. Therefore, reason to yourself, “Why should I desire something insignificant and transient?  Isn’t it better for me to serve the Creator and to love God, Who is the purpose of everything?  If I desire something and satisfy the desire, I only satisfied that single lust at that one moment. But when I serve God with equal enthusiasm, I achieve all pleasures, for God with equal enthusiasm, I achieve all pleasures, for He is the totality of pleasure!”  By this method of elevating lustful thoughts, you can elevate your evil urge from the depths to the greatest heights.

However, even though this method is a good one, it is not the ultimate in divine service. The reason is that one will employ this method is like one who serves himself, because he derives pleasure from his service of God.

The ideal object of divine service is to give satisfaction to the Creator, so that He has the same type of pleasure that a father does when he plays with his precocious son, as it is written, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart shall rejoice, too (Proverbs 23:16).” “May the Lord rejoice in His works (Psalms 104:31),” refers to the same thing.

Now, most worldly lusts give pleasure to man, and man is the recipient of the pleasure. But the sexual appetite is just the opposite. Man gives and a woman receives, but man derives pleasure from giving even though he gives to someone else. This is the meaning of the previously cited passage in the Talmud, “Because the Torah is as beloved by Israel as sexual intercourse is by the nations of the world.” Even as the giver in intercourse derives pleasure from the act of giving, so Israel loves Torah study and Divine worship, for the essence of Divine service is bestowing joy and pleasure, in the form of an overflowing of Divine Grace, upon the Creator. (Kedushat Levi, Vayechi)