[Avodah] observing the mitzvot is good for digestion?

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Mon Apr 8 20:00:56 PDT 2024

Back on Feb 14 (I'm a bit behind), R' Joel Rich wrote:

> From Maaseh Harav:
> In the essay we are discussing, the Rav expresses his disgust
> at the prevalent preaching to the effect that "observing the
> mitzvot is good for digestion, sweet sleep, family tranquility
> and social status." He had never attempted to interpret the
> Torah via "the categories of mental health, peace of mind and
> the like, despite the popularity of this approach amongst Jewish
> thinkers, Orthodox and non-Orthodox." He had no enthusiasm for
> those who would "bedeck the Torah with modern-Bohemian crown and
> to demonstrate to those at ease in the suburbs of Boston, New
> York and Los Angeles, that it is worthy of entering their ornate
> living rooms. He follows this paragraph with blunt statement that
> "religious action is primarily an experience of suffering"
> Thoughts?

I have no idea what is meant by "religious action is primarily an
experience of suffering", and therefore I cannot and will not comment on
it, other than to say that my confusion stems from the many religious
actions which clearly involve simcha, and *not* suffering.

Regarding the beginning:   I avoid commenting that "observing the mitzvot
is good for digestion, sweet sleep, family tranquility and social status"
(and similar observations) because in so many cases, when one generation
makes such comments, they are debunked by another generation. [Examples of
such health claims: Avoidance of pork lessens the incidence of trichinosis.
Bris Milah and Hilchos Nida lessen the incidence of certain cancers. Maybe
they do, but will the next generation think so?] These claims, therefore,
in my opinion, end up detracting from the eternal values of the Torah. I
concede that in some cases, such claims do have the short-term benefit of
attracting certain people to Torah. But I fear that in the long-term, they
do more harm than good.

Akiva Miller
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