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Being Simple

Being Simple


Simple is straightforward. This is what needs to be done and this is how we do it. “Put up and shut up, or get out of the way.” It’s easier and more convenient to get lost in a committee that appreciates the complexity.

The Baal Shem Tov liked simplicity. Simple folk who simply liked G‑d, although they were clueless in all matters of faith and religion and theology. They liked G‑d like a baby likes his father.

The Baal Shem Tov also liked faith, theology and religion. He liked scholars who struggled with faith and intellect, mastering a little bit of each, only to realize how much they now lacked. He wanted that they should remain simple through the process, still be a baby calling for his father.

The simple faith of a sophisticated man has more dimension and a richer texture. A faith that began simple before the intellect kicked in, held onto while the intellect kicked and emerged simple after the tension abated. A simplicity above complexity and permeating the complexity. Because to ignore the complexity is simply simplistic.

A simple person who is delighted with his simple faith is, well, simply simplistic. Once he recognizes his simplicity, he implicitly rejects complexity—which makes the complexity all the more convincing.

So I dare say the Baal Shem Tov would have had no interest in a conscious simplism. I have heard stories of how his successors did not.

Simple faith is not easy. You have to address all of the complexities of faith, reason, life and death that your little brain can fathom. You have to exhaust all of your time, energy and resources in this endeavor. What you have left is, well, faith: unencumbered by intellectual roads not traveled.

Towards this faith the Torah reading (Deuteronomy 18:13) directs us: Tamim tihyeh, which translates awkwardly and unconvincingly to “be wholesome” in your faith. Until we come up with a better word, we’ll call it simple faith. Quite simply.

Rabbi Shimon Posner is the director of Chabad of Rancho Mirage, California.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Revd Owen Murphy UK August 25, 2014

Yes, try sitting absolutely still and emptying your mind for twenty minutes...
Very difficult when first tried. Reply

David Levant Emerson, N.J. June 7, 2012

Simplicity and Complexity When questions are posed as simple,the answers are often more varied and complex.When questions are more complex,the answers are more uniform and simple.There's simplicity within the complexity and complexity within the simplicity.Although this idea of simple faith versus a more complex one may some validity,the most important thing is that we all have some faith.As long as everyone can grasp this concept,each person's faith in G-D can grow and flourish in people ages 9 to 99. Reply

Anonymous August 31, 2011

not sure Am not sure what the point is in this article. That makes me simple. But i am humble because the mighty king and the beggar man are only different in name. If this is what the article states, then great. If it means something else, then i object politely.

Respectfully submitted. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma August 31, 2011

Faith There are at least two ways of knowing, of belief, or faith in G_d. One way is to be taught by one's parents, there is a G_d and to observe their faith, imbibe this, and become a believer. They said so, so it must be true. I totally respect them. My parents are my first gods.

Another way is to be taught or not, and to find one's own way, by rejecting what one is taught, or simply, taking one's own journey into the light. Some parents are atheist, or agnostics, and some never discuss G_d and avoid such conversations as unscientific. Some are believers and then life throws severe curves and then they disbelieve, and somehow come back, into belief.

Which one is stronger?

This could be debated. I think the journey from non belief to belief is somehow stronger as it is bolstered by one's personal story and journey itself, being transformational.

But maybe this is far far, too simplistic! Reply

Esther Los Angeles, USA August 24, 2006

Simple Faith is HARD how does one keep "simple faith" when all of life is so complicated? Reply

Anonymous August 24, 2006

As an old lady with little torah learning in my background but a great love of Hashem I guess I'm one of the simple folk? Reply

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