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I am looking for a detailed, comprehensive answer (if possible) to this. As one studies Torah one comes across a seeming contradictory set of values.

On the one hand, it seems that our greatest heroes were renowned (and sometimes renounced) for their shocking levels of abstinence (I will edit with sources soon). Perishut (abstinence) is one of the levels in Mesilat Yisharim.

On the other, we are chided for not deriving kosher pleasures in this world. See this answer, and more sources will be edited in when I get a chance.

I've learned a lot of chassidus, ta'anug isn't bad. It's actually the deepest. The halachot of ta'anug are rigorous, but it's not like ta'anug is, in and of itself wrong, in fact it is very important for us to raise the creation and make it holy, and enjoy the spiritual ta'anug that is the process and the result of this. It's very important to be a mensch, and use your ta'anug in the service of others, make sure to feel a lot of love and warmth towards your family, the Jewish people, mankind, Hashem, enjoy gifts that are given to you, enjoy Yommim Tovim etc.

Yet still, there's a heavy emphasis on our sages dafka avoiding all possible pleasures in this world, kosher, not kosher, etc, sometimes are even criticised for this.

So the question is how to reconcile these two points of view?


The side that needs the most explanation, from my point of view at least, is the side of abstinence.

Firstly, Why were Chazal doing that? What does it achieve, what's the good in it? I sometimes try to imagine, what lesson were they given as children that inspired them to dedicate their lives to reaching such high levels and become passionate innovators of Perishut, even sometimes at great risk and penalty? We, nowadays, aren't taught anything which inspires that; the knowledge is seemingly lost from the public consciousness that makes this all make sense.

Secondly. If that's the ideal, then should we all be striving for that?

Thirdly, how do we contextualise this with the fact that there is nothing actually wrong with pleasure, it's a very great and holy thing that sits in the etzem of our neshama, so what's so good about going to great lengths to avoid it in this world? What's the connection with Olam Haba?

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    In Hayom Yom, 1 Tamuz, 2nd day, it is said: for even trivial wordly delights are obstacles to being thoroughly devoted and dedicated to the "tent" of Torah.
    – Shmuel
    Nov 3, 2022 at 15:04
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    I don’t recall where I saw this, but I believe I heard two different approaches to this question. One was that there’s a difference between going out and searching for pleasure vs taking pleasure that comes your way. Two was that someone who is trying to change should go to the extreme and then once he’s set, come back to the middle with moderation
    – Chatzkel
    Nov 3, 2022 at 15:50
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    See Rav Shimon Shkop on the subject at aishdas.org/ShaareiYosher.pdf . (Translation mine, from my book based on the introduction to Shaarei Yosher, Widen Your Tent [Mosaica Press, 2019] widenyourtent.com ). Pg 48 onward discuss how one can take rest, relaxation and entertainment in a qadosh way, and then drifts into why Hashem made us to need such things. You might need the context of starting from the beginning, though. Nov 4, 2022 at 13:33
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    @RabbiKaii I assume he ate food. And enjoying it is automatic! I thought he meant, pleasure was never a goal in itself; everything he did was l'shem shomayim. מצות לאו ליהנות ניתנו.
    – MichoelR
    Jan 23, 2023 at 18:56
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    @MichoelR beautiful, and if sources could be brought, would make a very sensible answer (and I think is basically the same argument as my answer below?)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 23, 2023 at 19:09

2 Answers 2

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There is a concept in morality, that we do not inherently deserve1:

עַד שֶׁלֹּא נוֹצַֽרְתִּי אֵינִי כְדַאי

Before I was created, I was worthless

This is logical. We do not have the power to create ourselves, or to sustain ourselves now that we are created, nor do we have the power to create pleasures, or create the ability to enjoy pleasures. We do not inherently deserve life, not to mention pleasure.

The point is far stronger if one includes the idea of tzimtzum she'lo k'peshuto. This is the kabbalistic idea that brings with it the concept that Hashem is immanently present in the world, because the world is made, so to speak, from His Essence2.

Is it any wonder then, that Chazal who were on a very high level of sensitivity to truth and holiness, and of pristine character traits (including bashfulness), were unable to bring themselves to partake of the physical pleasures of life? They were highly in tune with the truth that we do not deserve this, similarly to how many people feel when we are guests in someone else's home, and feel we need to wait for permission to begin eating and drinking.

This is the same Chazal who also taught us about all of the mitzvot and their derivations (such as seudat mitzva). The mitzvot and halachot are the Will of Hashem. The positive side to the point presented thus far is that they would have felt that, since they don't deserve to be here, but Hashem put them here, lets them be here and wants them to be here, pleasing Him and doing whatever He wants is imperative. Again, the mashal would be being a guest in someone else's home, we feel a natural desire to wanting to please our host, and follow his rules.

So in the context of a seudat mitzva, or oneg Shabbat, Hashem Himself expects us, as part of His Will, to enjoy physical pleasures. This provides ample opportunity to be true to the point being made in Yerushalmi Kiddushin 4:12 about "In the future one will be judged for all that his eyes saw and he didn't eat".

Even if this is a general principle and not just limited to food, but all permissible worldly pleasures, Chazal would still approach this under the context of "fulfilling Hashem's Will", rather than personal satisfaction. Some may have been unable to bring themselves to do it, simply finding it too against their nature and difficult, whereas others might have been able to pull it off, and derive some minimal pleasure under duress, while avoiding doing so from a place of satisfying their nefesh or yeiter. Thus, their declaration that "I didn't partake of physical pleasure in my life" still holds true.

For the rest of us, we take the middle road. We start in a place of deriving pleasures from the world without any good middot getting in the way, and strive to reach a point where we are doing so l'halacha. Hashem did indeed create pleasure for more reasons than just giving our yeitzer hara something to do. Pleasure is a reality and has many kosher applications, many mitzva applications, can be a road to the ultimate goal of getting closer to Hashem, the source of (and only true) pleasure, and is indeed the reward in the World to Come. Getting to the point where we include Hashem in our pleasures, by recognising it comes from Him, thanking Him and praising Him, and looking after our health, our middot, and making sure that we are doing so in a way that doesn't deviate from His Will - nay is in fact an expression of His Will - is our goal and will cultivate in us the same positive middot that Chazal had, the same penimius recognition of our undeservedness, which in the right context is only a good, healthy thing!

Just like guests at a shabbat meal - if they avoided enjoying all the delicious dishes you made for them, you will hold it against them!


I've seen sources I can't recall right now that state that part of the point of having to die and be resurrected is because when we partake of physical pleasures inappropriately, we destroy a good sensitivity towards them that we will need in Olam Haba to enjoy them properly. Death and resurrection is the only way to get it back. Does anyone have a source for this as it would be pertinent to this answer. It seems very logical. Olam Haba is for those who have come to the point of "deserving" life and pleasures by earning it through Olam Hazeh. Any time we derive physical pleasure in this world, we desensitise ourselves to it. Fair enough if we are under instruction to derive that physical pleasure from Hashem, but any time we did so inappropriately, this is going to detract from the reward of Olam Haba and it is right that, after teshuva and a life of mitzvot, we are given the opportunity to redeem our sensitivity, in preparation for Olam Haba.

Note: I am not necessarily saying that the pleasures of Olam Haba include physical pleasures like food etc. But the point can still stand in a more general sense.


This idea is generally my own, therefore I'd appreciate some feedback. If people generally view it as in line with Torah thought, I would consider accepting it.


1 - Based on Rava's prayer in Berachot 17a, also brought in Yoma 87b.
2 - Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, “Mi Komokhah” in Likutei Torah—Torat Shmuel, Sefer 5629 (Kehot Publication Society: New York, 1992) p. 163. See also Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn, Torat Shalom p. 198 “All is encompassed in G‑d’s essence, accordingly no other being exists at all. Yet, this implies that nothing was created, which is impossible to say, since creation is itself the divine name elokim. It is a divine name and therefore true. That is, elokim exists, and accordingly there is concealment (that is, there is otherly existence, which is the concealment). However the concealment is encompassed in the essence, because the divine name elokim—which is the divine power that contracts—is also of the essence…”. See also Maimonides, Misheh Torah, Laws of ‎Foundations of the Torah 2:10: "הוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ וְהוּא הַדֵּעָה עַצְמָהּ הַכּל אֶחָד". See also https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3432275/jewish/Do-Chabad-Teachings-Say-Anything-About-the-Mind-Body-Problem.htm

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I’m sure there are many varied approaches to this question, but since you mentioned him I will go with the approach of the Mesilas Yesharim. The Mesilas Yesharim in Chapter 13 where he explains what prishus is, addresses this question specifically. He quotes conflicting statements from chazal that seem to express different views. At the end of the chapter he ends with the following statement:

הרי לך הכלל האמיתי: שכל מה שאינו מוכרח לאדם בעניני העולם הזה ראוי לו שיפרוש מהם, וכל מה שהוא מוכרח לו מאיזה טעם שיהיה כיון שהוא מוכרח לו, אם הוא פורש ממנו הרי זה חוטא. הנה זה כלל נאמן, אך משפט הפרטים על פי הכלל הזה אינו מסור אלא אל שקול הדעת ולפי שכלו יהולל איש, כי אי אפשר לקבץ כל הפרטים כי רבים הם ואין שכל האדם יכול להקיף על כולם אלא דבר דבר בעתו. Here then is a true general principle: whatever worldly matter is not essential for a man, it is proper for him to separate from it, and whatever is essential to him for whatever reason, if he separates from it - he is a sinner, since that thing is necessary for him. Behold, this is a faithful guideline. But the weighing of this rule is a matter of individual judgment and "according to his understanding a man is praised" (Mishlei 12:8). For it is impossible to discuss all the details of Separation for they are so numerous that a man's mind cannot grasp all of them. Rather each matter must be dealt with in its time. (Translation taken from Sefaria)

So as the Ramchal himself states the details are too numerous to go through. Each person has to be their own judge. But he does state that if there is any reason whatsoever not to abstain then separating would be a sin. So one has to truly be mindful if being a parush will cause him resentment or any other negative affects (or affect anyone around him).

One more point to add. In that same chapter Ramchal states that Perishus is meant for someone that wants to be a chasid which is already a level beyond a tzaddik. So there is much to be worked on before someone seriously considers perishus.

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  • Thanks for this great answer. I apologise but this was one of my first questions and the way it was asked was quite below standards. I've made it more focussed and to the point now and if you have time, feel free to review my changes and if you feel your question needs any amending, do so
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 23, 2023 at 17:02

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