Holiness in Physical Pleasure

by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

“For three years the fruit shall be ‘Orlah,’ and may not be eaten. In the fourth year, all of the fruit shall be holy, for praising God.” (Lev. 19:23-4)

The Talmud in Berachot 35a quotes this verse as the source for reciting a brachah (blessing) over food. “‘Holy, for praising God’ — this teaches that (fruit and other foods) require a blessing before and after eating.”

The key word, Rav Kook noted, is kodesh — holiness. Even when we eat, even when we partake of worldly pleasures, we should be able to find holiness.

Holiness from physical pleasure? How is this possible?

Opportunity for Holiness

What is a brachah? When we recite a blessing, we are expressing our awareness of God as the ultimate source for this pleasure. But there is an enjoyment greater than the sensory pleasure that comes from eating food. Eating entitles us to recite a blessing and thus connect with our Creator. We experience an inner joy when we realize that every form of physical pleasure was created with the opportunity to refine the spirit and uplift the soul.

A brachah is not just our gratitude for the physical pleasure we are about to enjoy. Each blessing should make us aware of a far greater kindness of God: that even material pleasures can be a source of spirituality and holiness. Our fruit thus becomes “holy, for praising God.”

(adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, p. 171)

Copyright © 2006 by Chanan Morrison

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