Acquiring Torah 3: Eternal Pleasure
Our Rabbis taught: It happened that Rabbi Eliezer was once sitting and lecturing the whole day [of the Festival] on Festival laws. When the first group left the lecture hall, he said: “These are people of butts; (very rich, counting their wine by butts. They have left thus early because of the large quantities of food and drink waiting for them. These are gluttons.)” When the second group left, he said: “These are people of casks (they remained a little longer because they have less to eat).” When the third group left, he said: “These are people of pitchers; (less rich than the second but wealthier than the next group).” When the fourth group left, he said: “These are people of flasks.” When the fifth group left he said: “These are people of beakers (less keen on their pleasures). When the sixth group began to go out he said: These are the people of the curse. He cast his eyes at his disciples and their faces began to change,(to turn pale, because they thought he was angry with them for not leaving earlier — apparently they thought that he considered himself bound to go on as long as he had hearers.) Whereupon he said to them: My sons, not of you said I this, but of those who have gone out, who put aside life eternal and occupy themselves with the life temporal . When they were taking their leave he said to them: “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy to our
Lord: neither be grieved; for the joy of the Lord is your [strength] stronghold(Nehemiah 8:10).” The Master said: ‘Who put aside life eternal and occupy themselves with the life temporal.’ (Beitzah 15b)
Rabbi Eliezer, who holds that there is a Mitzvah to eat on a festival, still held that people involved in studying must measure their Torah Study, eternal life, against their physical, and limited lives. He suspected that the students were not leaving for the Mitzvah of enjoying the festival, but because they could not wait to eat.
The Torah encourages us to enjoy life and partake of permissible physical pleasures, however, we must remain constantly aware of Torah Study as an eternal pleasure, and be careful to not run to our physical pleasures from Torah without a sense of the eternal value of what we are doing.
This stage of Acquiring Torah is the constant heightened awareness of the Eternal Value of our Torah Study, and to measure all we do by that standard. It is a commitment to live life with a constant focus on acquiring Eternal Life.