[Avodah] Is a Teisch or Kumsitz Religiously Significant?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Fri Nov 5 13:07:57 PDT 2021

Came across this post by R Jonathan Muskat (YI of Oceanside) on TOI

    Is a Tisch or a Kumsitz Religiously Significant?
    Oct 28, 2021, 6:58 AM
    The Rambam believes that we have the opportunity to observe five
    mitzvot when we study metaphysics, which he calls "pardes" or "maaseh
    merkavah."  These mitzvot include the first two of the Ten Commandments
    that God took us out of Egypt and that we should have no other gods,
    the verse "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokenu Hashem echad" - i.e., the unity
    of God,  and the mitzvot of loving and fearing God.  What's fascinating
    about the Rambam's listing of Mitzvot in this regard is that they
    contain both (1) intellectual mitzvot - understand that God and no
    other being is the source of creation and belief in the unity of God -
    and (2) emotional mitzvot - love and fear God.

    What that means is that for the Rambam, the study of philosophy is not
    only an intellectual pursuit.  It must lead to an emotional connection
    with God, both the feeling of awe and the feeling of love...

I am not as sure. I think the Rambam's conception of G-d is so
transcendent, there is no possibility of actual ahavah of Hashem
Himself. In Yesodei haTorah 2:2 he talks more about love as thirst
for knowledge ("miyad hu oheiv, umeshabeiach umfaeir umi'saveh ta'avah
gedolah leida hasheim hagadol"). And his yir'ah is more about awareness
of our limitation in contrast to the Temim Dei'os.

Still, not sure we are pursuing paths as Aristotelian as the Rambam's, I
would agree with the followng:

                      Our connection with God must be an emotional one, as
    well.  But how do we achieve that?  We had such an inspiring Shabbat
    with a soulful Shabbat davening, Friday night tisch and seudah shlishit

The question is, is that emotion religiously deep?

As long timers know, I am "into" the kumzitz and hosted a singing minyan
for Friday nights. But...

R YB Soloveitchik would probably dismiss the whole thing as "ceremony",
since you are finding your religious passion in something other than
halakhah. He would argue that we should be finding ways to be inspired
through mitzvah observance, not appending separate inspiring practices.

I am not sure about the Rav's critique. One who pursues the kumzitz to
fulfill the same chiyuvim of ahavas and yir'as Hashem. Or the va'ad as
a means to hilkhos dei'os. (To pick an example I invest far more time
and effort into.) These are less ceremonies than methodologies to fulfil
mitzvos that cannot be simply "performed". Much the way RYBS spoke about
"white tablecloths and silver settings" at a shabbos table, but they
are means of keeping an atmosphere of both oneg and kavod shabbos.

And yet... That's only true if these methodologies are effective.

Think of the typical Carlebach minyan that spends much time on Qabbalas
Shabbos and then so as not to eat very late, rush through Qeri'as Shema
and Shemoneh Esrei like they didn't feel like they were on a religious
high just minutes before.

Or the possibility of a crowd of people who go from singing together at a
bonfire in Meron thinking they are experiencing berov am hadras Melekh --
and perhaps they really were! -- to so panicked about self-preservation
that participants are trampeled to death.

So, do these emotional experiences actually make a roshem of any depth?
Is it a cumulative effect, like repeated advertising "impressions"?

Another difference between the Rambam's path and the emotional high
of music, possibly at a bonfire, or comraderie over alcohol, music and
divrei Torah at a tish.... work. The Rambam expected someone to study,
something heavy in effort. Not a peak that happens by going to the right
event, but a discipline of years of effort.

Chodesh Tov!

Micha Berger                 A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   man's soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries
Author: Widen Your Tent      about his own soul and his fellow man's stomach.
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                     - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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