October 30th, 2006


Quotation: The Besht & pleasure

In my continuing joy in presenting what I hope are interesting, enlightening, and sometimes provocative quotations, I offer the following:

    Another ancient Jewish doctrine that was given particular emphasis by the Ba’al Shem Tov* was based on a verse in Isaiah: “The whole world is full of His glory” (6:13). If the whole world is full of God’s glory, the Besht reasoned, then the Mitnagdim and the ascetics were wrong in thinking that one had to turn one’s back on the pleasures of the world. “Don’t deny that a girl is beautiful,” the Besht would say. “Just be sure that your recognition of her beauty brings you back to its source—God.” If one could do that, then even physical pleasures could bring about spiritual growth.
    —Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History, HarperCollins, New York, 2001, ISBN 0-688-08406-7, pages 225–226.

*Israel Ba’al Shem Tov was the founder of Hasidism. His last name, which literally means “Master of the Good Name,” was one that was frequently applied in Jewish life to miracle workers and healers. He was usually referred to by his acronym, the Besht.