Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Overindulgence For The Sake Of Heaven

In his March 14 posting, Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh wrote, "I have also proven over and over, that I am willing to sacrifice layers of experience for the sake of comfort." His posting insightfully analyzes the role of "comfort" in American society and the struggle between gashmius and ruchnius.

Chassidus teaches that gashmius should be ultimately used for the purpose of ruchnius. American Jewish life, however, has provided many examples where people initially indulge in the comforts of gashmius "for the sake of Heaven" but eventually forget the "for the sake of Heaven" aspect and just simply overindulge themselves.

In this land of overwhelming gashmius is it still possible to maintain a focus on ruchnius?

While Chassidus would argue that that gashmius and ruchnius are not mutually exclusive, it appears that there is a very fine line between them. Exactly where this line is, I do not know.

Hopefully Rabbi Karsh's posting will be the beginning of a deeper discussion on this issue.


At March 16, 2005 at 10:24:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you mind explaining what 'gashmius' and 'ruchnius' means? Thank you!

At March 16, 2005 at 10:29:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Gashmius = materialism or a physical item

Ruchnius = spirituality

At March 16, 2005 at 12:11:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This should be an excellent discussion! Our perspective should always be vertical, rather than horizontal, but it isn't always easy to do. But, the more one keeps that eternal perspective the easier it is to be aware of potential problems. I always want to be sensitive enough that G-d just needs to 'whisper' my name, rather than having to hit me over the head with a two by four! And, if one is aware, then you can make a choice (hopefully the correct choice!). ~C~

At March 16, 2005 at 12:38:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks "c". I always appeciate your comments. Have you ever considered starting your own blog?

At March 16, 2005 at 12:42:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it has crossed my mind...~C~

At March 16, 2005 at 12:43:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Go for it!! I will read it. :)

At March 16, 2005 at 1:53:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I've given this some more thought and this may not be the direction you want this discussion to go. So, if that is the case then just let me know.

Materialism can become so tied up with idolatry. What must one have for life to be meaningful or happy? If I answer that question with anything other than G-d Himself, then that's what functions as a god to me. Idols aren't just stone statues. They are the thoughts, desires, longings and expectations that we worship in the place of the true
G-d. They cause us to ignore the true G-d in search of what we think we need. ~C

At March 16, 2005 at 2:07:00 PM EST, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Rabbi Karsh is a wise man.

I find it perplexing that some of the people who condemn gashmius and extol ruchnius seem very hung up on what I would consider to be gashmius-dik things:

What kind of hat, what kind of bekeshe, gartls, etc.

They should try to be more "simple."

At March 16, 2005 at 2:08:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

"C" and Psycho Toddler:

Interesting points. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

At March 16, 2005 at 2:30:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with psychotoddler, one must keep it simple!

At March 16, 2005 at 2:33:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I am not going to argue ;)

At April 18, 2006 at 10:59:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Mark said...

We live in this country which affords so many people the opportunity for material advantage and prosperity. Yet it ignores, and likely disallows, the deeper spiritual reality of who we really are. The force and power of materialism is indeed strong and hypnotic; it is difficult not to be at least affected by its influence, if not totally distracted, overcome, and lost in it all. One result is that we have an overwhelming problem of addiction in the United States, and this addiction is not limited to substances, such as alcohol and other drugs. But also includes addiction to consumption of all sorts: purchasing things, gambling, internet use, relationships, sex, work, even religion - and that is just to name a few. We have to stuff ourselves with something, anything, so as to fill the void within, which living in such a materialistic society encourages us all to become at least a little bit (if not a lot) addicted to something. For people are seen and reduced to be consumers. I have heard people refer to this tendency in Western society as bestial. I say to them: "Please do not insult the animals. Animals do not behave like this. Only people do. And humankind is given a free will with which to choose how to live. Besides which, it was human beings who implemented their intelligence to devise and implement a society and way of life which, despite its material advantage, reduces us to commodities, consumers, and statistics." It is only through the several enduring religions and spiritual traditions of the world, of which Judaism is one amongst them, that we can have our salvation, enlightenment, and redemption from such an empty, albeit "comfortable", existence. Yet such outward comforts can scarcely assuage the inner suffering and turmoil for even a instant. A cooperative alliance amongst these religious and spiritual traditions will be the best assurance for the survival of the human and other species as well as the planet itself, to insure that our greed and selfishness do not consume, devour, and incinerate the entire planet.
In specific reference to substance abuse, I have heard a number of other Jews observe that Jews in general are in denial concerning substance abuse (alcoholism and other drug addiction) as being much of a problem amongst Jewish people; they tell me that there are plenty of us who suffer from these sicknesses, some who are in 12-Step and other Recovery programs, others who are not.
It would seem to me that Chassidic Jews would be less threatened by these aspects and tendencies of American society, including addiction to substances. Yet neither are they immune nor do not live in a vacuum.

At April 21, 2006 at 6:57:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Mark: Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


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