Halacha Club

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried

Chapter 31: All Man's Intentions Should be for the Sake of Heaven.


Our Rabbis, may their memory be for a blessing, said: 1 "Which is a short passage on which the entire body of Torah is dependent? 'Know Him in all your ways.' " 2 This means that even in the paths you follow for the sake of your physical needs, you must know G-d and carry out these functions for His name's sake, blessed be He. For example: eating, drinking, walking, sitting, laying, getting up, sexual relations, conversation - all the needs of your body - should all be (for) your service of your Creator, or as something which leads to His service.

  1. Berachot 63a.
  2. Proverbs 3:6.


How does this apply regarding eating and drinking? It is unnecessary to say that one should not eat or drink prohibited foods, Heaven forbid. Rather, even with regard to permitted foods, if one was hungry or thirsty, if one ate or drank for one's own benefit, it is not commendable. Rather, one should intend by one's eating and drinking that one will have the strength to serve the Creator. Therefore, one should not eat everything which is pleasing to his palate, like a dog or a donkey. Rather, one should eat those things that are helpful and good to the body's health. There are righteous individuals who, before eating, say: "I want to eat and drink to be healthy and strong in order to serve the Creator, blessed be His name."


How does this apply with regard to sitting, getting up, and walking? It is unnecessary to say that one should not sit among jesters, stand in the manner of the sinners, or walk according to the counsel of the wicked. Rather, even when one sits in the forum of the upright, stands in the place of the righteous, and follows the advice of the sincere - if one did so for one's own benefit, to satisfy one's own desires and wants - this is not praiseworthy. One should do so for the sake of Heaven. Nevertheless, if one cannot have the intentions (to do these) for the sake of Heaven only, one should not refrain from them, for by (doing these) not for His sake, one will come (to doing them) for for His sake.


How does this apply with regard to lying down? It is not necessary to say when one has the opportunity to study Torah and observe mitzvot, although one is tempted to go to sleep for one's own pleasure, that it is not fitting to do this. Rather, even when one is tired and must sleep to rest from one's weariness, if it was for physical enjoyment, this is not praiseworthy. Rather one should intend to give sleep to one's eyes and to one's body rest for the sake of one's health, so that one will not become confused during Torah study due to lack of sleep.


How does this apply with regard to sexual relations? It is unnecessary to say that one should not transgress, Heaven forbid. Rather, even at the time as prescribed by the Torah, if one did (it) for the sake of one's physical pleasure or to satisfy his desire is considered to be coarse. Even if one (did it) intending to have children who will assist one and inherit one's position, this is not praiseworthy. Rather, one should intend to have children to serve one's Creator; alternatively, one intends (it) for one's physical well-being and to fulfill one's conjugal duties, as a person who pays a debt.


How does this apply (with regard) to conversation? It is unnecessary to say that one should not slander, gossip, jest, or use coarse expressions, Heaven forbid! Rather, even when one talks about (words of wisdom or) the sayings of the sages, one's intention should be the service of the Creator, or things which lead to that service.


Similarly, when one is involved in commerce or work to earn money, one's intent should be not to amass money alone. Rather, it should be done to maintain one's family, to give charity, and to bring up one's sons to study Torah. In general, a person should think about one's behavior and weigh all of one's deeds with one's intellect. When one sees that a particular thing leads to the service of G-d, one should rise up and do it; if not, one should not do it. One who follows this course of behavior will serve G-d all one's life, even when sitting, getting up, walking and while involved in business; even when eating, drinking, and even in sexual relations; and in all one's needs. On this, taught our Rabbis, may their memory be for a blessing, saying: 1 "All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven." In this context, the saintly Rabbi 2 raised his fingers upward, at the time of his passing, and said: "it is known and revealed before You that I have not received pleasure from them except for the sake of Heaven" 3 .

  1. Avot 2:17.
  2. Rav Yehudah Hanasi
  3. Ketuvot 104a.