Chapter Five (Part 2)
We're then offered a marvelous piece of advice. "Don’t let your goal be to
simply enjoy yourself" when you eat, drink, and do other such things, "and
thus choose only appetizing foods, drinks, and the like." Instead, "strive
for what’s edifying" -- that is, to aim for what will ennoble us, hone our
inner being, and bring us closer to our ultimate goal of comprehending G-
d, rather than what will merely tickle our senses.
If what we're partaking of "happens to be gratifying, too, then so be it"
Rambam adds; since there's nothing inherently wrong with that. But the
other side of the coin is that if that same thing "happens *not* to be
gratifying, then so be (that)" too, and we're to partake of it with aplomb
with the idea that what matters most is that it will enable us to better
There's an instance or two in which we'd be encouraged to choose something
just because it was tasty, though: for medical reasons -- if we'd somehow
lost our appetite and would need to eat something distinctively good in
order to get it back; or if we'd grown depressed and would need to "ward
it off by listening to poems and music, by strolling in gardens and among
alluring structures, or by sitting before attractive works of art and the
The same goes for accruing wealth, by the way (which isn't at all wrong as
long as we do it with halachic and legal guidelines). We may certainly do
it, but only "to acquire edifying things, to maintain our well-being, and
to extend our life long enough to comprehend G-d and know as much about
Him as we can."
In the end, though, our "goal in all that should be our physical (and
emotional) well-being" rather than the experience itself, so that we might
achieve our ultimate goal with full vigor.
(Rambam ends here with an interesting bit of advice which still holds true
today. "In point of fact," he adds, "the practice of medicine has a lot to
do with virtues, knowing G-d, and comprehending what true bliss is", and
it thus allows one to pursue a life of virtue and intelligence, he says
from personal experience, having been a physician himself.)
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org