Simplicity: Rabbi Nachman

Rabbi Nachman provides wonderful insight into subject of holiness and spiritual connection through simplicity.

1) To take on the yoke of Heaven we must abandon all of our own sophisticated ideas and walk in the path of purity and simplicity. The Holy Torah is the only true wisdom. All other ideas are nothing in comparison (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom 5; 308).

2) People should throw aside all their sophisticated ideas and serve God with purity and simplicity. Action is the main thing, not study, and you should see to it that your practical achievements are greater than your intellectual development. It is obvious that this applies to the `wisdom’ of the average person, which is nothing but foolishness. Without doubt this has to be thrown out completely. But it even applies to genuine wisdom. When it comes to serving God, even someone whose head is filled with genuine wisdom should put it all aside and serve God with purity and simplicity. At times it may even be necessary to behave in a way that seems mad in order to serve God. We may have to do things which seem crazy for the sake of carrying out His will. We may have to roll about in all kinds of mud and mire in order to serve God and fulfill His commandments. This does not apply only to things which are explicitly mitzvot. Anything which God desires to be done is called a mitzva. It may be necessary to throw oneself into the mud and m ire to carry out a certain action that will be pleasing to God. When one’s love of God is strong enough, he becomes a `precious and beloved son,’ and God will show him abundant love and compassion and permit him to investigate the hidden store-chambers of the King, until he will learn the deepest secrets of all — why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper, and so on. He will be worthy of the secrets of Torah and he will be able to raise up `judgement’ out of the deep and restore it (Likutey Moharan II, 5:15).

3) Someone who follows his own ideas can easily fall into all kinds of traps and get into serious trouble, God forbid. Too many people have been led astray by their own wisdom. They themselves have sinned, and they have caused many others to sin as well. All because of their fallacious `wisdom.’ The essence of the Jewish religion is to follow the path of purity and simplicity without sophistication: simply to make sure that God is present in everything one does. Have no thought at all for your own honor and glory. The only question is whether God’s glory will be enhanced. If so, do it; if not, then don’t. This way you will never stumble (Ibid. 12).

4) Besides simplicity and purity, you should understand that there is no need to search for specially strict practices to take upon yourself. To think that you should is an illusion: it is simply one of the devices of the Evil One to deter you from serving God. Such practices are not part of serving God. As our Sages said: `The Torah was not given to the ministering angels’ (Kiddushin 54a). It was given to men of flesh and blood. These exaggerated practices can put you off completely. The greatest wisdom of all is not to be wise at all. It is simply to be pure and straightforward (Ibid. 44).

5) Sophistication can be very harmful. Thinkers are easily trapped in their own wisdom. Keep well away from the wisdom of those selfimportant people who believe they know great truths about serving God. Their wisdom is nothing but foolishness. All their sophistication is quite unnecessary in serving God. The main thing is to be pure and simple a nd to have pure faith in God and His Tzaddikim. True, you have to be careful that you are being pure and simple as opposed to idiotic. But sophistication is entirely unnecessary. Simplicity, purity and faith can bring you to great joy (Ibid.).

6) The greatest sophistication is to avoid sophistication (Ibid. 83).

7) You should be careful to follow the simple devotions and customs of Israel: singing songs on Shabbat and at the conclusion of Shabbat, and similar practices. It is good to recite many prayers and supplications — such as those printed in the large prayer books. People think it is clever to ridicule these practices. But they are wrong. The essen ce of Judaism is simplicity and purity, without sophistication at all (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom 155).

Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman’s practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006

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