Monday, May 15, 2006

Why I Celebrate Lag La‘Omer

I don't believe that Qabbala is the One True Jewish Cosmology™.

I don't even believe in Kabbala in general.
(i prefer the more rationalistic philosophies)

And I certainly don't believe that Ribbí Shim‘on bar Yohhai wrote the Zohar.
(that was all R' Moshe de León in medieval Ispamya)

But I do believe that those who prowled God's Heavenly Halls, counted and weighed Spheres and Emanations, and danced Cartwheels during prayer were on to something. They were looking for Experiential Judaism. It's one thing to philosophize intellectually about God; it's another to meditate oneself into a state in which God is unmistakably present.

It's a dangerous path — the story of the four sages who ventured into God's Garden, and only Ribbí ‘Aqiva came out unscathed, teaches us that — but I believe that everyone must take a few steps along it themself. Not necessarily in the footsteps of a preexisting philosophy of esoterica — as King David said, "[such] incomprehensible mistakes; cleanse me of [so-called] 'hidden things'!" — since, after all, Cabbala has had some very negative effects on the history of Yahadut, but in an open, undogmatic manner. Meditation. Prayer. Concentration. These are tools towards experiencing God.

Go out and hug that Tree of Life.

And get ecstatic in honor of R' Shim‘on bar Yohhai, mascot of Experiential Judaism.

3 Comments:

Anonymous springbird said...

I'd call Chassidus more experiential than Cabbala. Chassidus is *very* experiential - take any action and sanctify it and revel in its spirituality without thinking about it very hard. That's experiential.
This is debatable, but meditation is the opposite of what I'd call experiential - it's dealing with the ultimate "intuitive" side of a person and not the "sensate" (if you're into Myers-Briggs classification). Experiential is going outward and meditation goes inward.
See, if Cabbala were experiential, I wouldn't be interested in it at all. What appeals to me is the fact that it engages the brain (yes, I think meditation engages the brain, even while shutting parts of it off) and not the senses or experiences.

5/16/2006 9:00 PM  
Blogger David Guttmann said...

I disagree vehemently. When someone gets ecstatic because of "awe and fear" brought about by meditating rationally, namely observing the world and seeing gadlus haboreh in His creations, that is Ahavah. Imaginning a God that does not exist, and getting one self excited loving this imaginary being is avoda zara and assur. Kabbalah in my mind is avodah zara. As Rambam says "nebech an apikores iz an apikores". The four that went in were rational and took risks like nadav and avihu not CV kabbalah or chassidus.

5/17/2006 7:21 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Hmmm... see, when i think of Kabbala, it looks like what happens when an experiential vision becomes ossified and standardized. It turns into just another cosmology, that you can study like any other one. Here's Rambam's cosmology. Here's the AR"Y's. That's why i never understood how Chabad promotes themselves as having a 'more spiritual outlook' — Liqutey Amarim of Sh"Z of Liadi is just another philosophical text that lays out a view of how the world operates. It's EXPERIENCE which is spiritual.

5/17/2006 4:02 PM  

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