Day 12 of the Omer

דְּבָרִים הַמּוּתָּרִים אִם עוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָם לַהֲנָאָתוֹ הֵם רַע גָּמוּר כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב רַבֵּנוּ נִשְׁמָתוֹ עֵדֶן (תַּנְיָא פֶּרֶק ז'). לְפִי דְּקַדֵּשׁ עַצְמְךָ בַּמּוּתָּר לָךְ. צָרִיךְ לְהַכְנִיס קְדוּשָּׁה בַּדְּבָרִים הַמּוּתָּרִים שֶׁיִּהְיֶ' בָּהֶם תַּכְלִית שֶׁל תּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת יִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם וּמִדּוֹת טוֹבוֹת.

Permissible actions performed for one’s own pleasure are utterly evil, as the Alter Rebbe states in ch. 7 of Tanya, for one must “sanctify himself in those matters that are permitted.”1 These matters must be invested with holiness, so that they will be undertaken for reasons related to Torah, mitzvos, the fear of G‑d, or self-refinement.2

Living in This World

A certain chassid living today in Crown Heights once studied in Brunoy, France, under the revered mashpia, R. Nissan Nemenov. That was over forty years ago. Yet to this day, he cannot enter an ice-cream parlor — not because he suspects that the food is not kosher, but because he cannot imagine walking into a place where the food is prepared primarily to appeal to a person’s desire, and not merely to satisfy his hunger. It is clear to him that every physical activity should lead, in some way, to creating a dwelling for G‑d on earth. And if not, then surely it should not be performed.

Moreover, for many a chassid like himself, “sanctifying oneself within that which is permitted” means more than simply abstaining from purposeless indulgence. He is not simply dieting. A chassid seeks to sanctify himself within thatwhich is permitted — not only by refraining from a superfluous second helping, but by eating as a chassid should, when tackling the legitimate first serving.

And the same approach of course applies to every kind of permissible physical activity.3