Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
הרב יוסף גבריאל בקהופר
While the article is interesting, without having available R. Spero's review, it is hard to follow the debate.Nevertheless, R. Bechhofer touches on an interesting topic, which he analyzes as: Is the purpose of Torah to enhance life, or is the purpose of life to enhance the Torah. But perhaps one can reframe slightly as: Is the purpose of humans to serve G-d, or is the purpose of G-d to serve humans. It is taken for granted in a number of sefarim, that to enjoy this world is improper, even if everything is al pi halacha. Some sages were reported to do everything possible to mimize enjoyment, even from kosher food. But if G-d is Avinu Malkeinu, what would the reaction of parents be to asking their child, did you enjoy the soup? The child says, I made sure to gulp it down so I wouldn't taste it. Any parent would be quite insulted, as they would hope their intense efforts would be enjoyed by their child. If G-d's purpose is to serve man, then it follows we should enjoy this world, and fully thank G-d for it, rather than adopting an ascetic lifestyle. This would contradict what mussar students are often taught to believe is the only correct way. If one adopts the approach that man's purpose is solely to serve G-d, it may actually demean G-d, as one could think G-d is overly concerned with his own honor. By allowing that G-d created us so he could serve us (as long as we refrain from harming ourselves by improper activities which the Torah proscribes), it may actually portray G-d in a more positive light--that of a benevolent G-d, rather than a demanding taskmaster. In fact, the traditional mussar approach that everything we do should be solely focused on gaining entrance to the world-to-come, and not on improving or enjoying this world, may actually contradict the mishna in Avos, which tells us we should not serve G-d for the purpose of obtaining a reward.
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