Meanderings

They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat. Sharing a meal as an important dimension to the spiritual life (via On Being).

Ms. Tippett: Where does the body come in to all of this? Where does the body come in to happiness? It can sound like we’re having a discussion about happiness. It’s very cerebral, very mental. You, for example, Bishop Schori, have spoken about running as body meditation. Let’s talk a little bit about our physical selves in this condition of happiness.

Lord Sacks: Well, obviously, Judaism has a certain approach to the physical dimension of the spiritual life. It’s called food. [laugh] In fact, somebody once said, you know, if you want a crash course in understanding all the Jewish festivals, they can all be summed up in three sentences: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat. [laugh] But I think that is part of our faith that God is to be found down here in this world that God created and seven times pronounced good. And I find one of the most striking sentences in Judaism — it is in the Jerusalem Talmud — is the statement of Rav that in the world to come, a person will have to give an account of every legitimate pleasure he or she deprived themselves of in this life. Because God gave us this world to enjoy.

I must say that quite apart — and I mean, absolutely, Judaism has taken — I think we share this, but Judaism has said there are three approaches to physical pleasure. Number one is hedonism, the worship of pleasure. The number two is asceticism, the denial of pleasure. And number three is the biblical way for sanctification of pleasure. And that, I think, is important and very profound. And I must say that, you know, sometimes the best kind of interfaith gatherance — I mean, theology is extremely wonderful. It’s very cognitive. That is a very polite English way of saying boring. [laugh] And sometimes the best form of interfaith is you just sit together, you eat together, you drink together, you share one another’s songs. You listen to one another’s stories and just enjoy the pleasures of this world with people of another faith. That is beautiful.

I would add just one other thing. If there is one thing I find beautiful beyond measures — there in my own tradition in what we call hakhnasat orhim, hospitality, very real element of Christianity and Islam and Buddhism — it’s a super element in Sikhism, what’s called langar. You know, it’s not just my physical pleasures. It’s giving physical pleasure to those who have all too little. One very great Hasidic teacher once said, “Somebody else’s material needs are my spiritual duties.” And that, I think, is where we join in sharing our pleasures with others.