2 Sivan 5781 / Thursday, May 13, 2021 | Torah Reading: Bamidbar
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Rebbe Nachman's Stories:Simpleton-Two Steps to Joy    

Rebbe Nachman's Stories:Simpleton-Two Steps to Joy

Do you want to be happy? You can achieve happiness right now. All you need to do is follow these two rules, and you’ll be part of the happiest group of people alive…


Translated by Chana Cohen



It all started back when we were little kids. We used to compare our games to our friends’ games. Then we got a little older and the comparisons grew with us - we began comparing our clothing and grades. After that, we grew up and still continued with the comparisons, and now we still compare ourselves to others. We compare houses, cars, spouses, children, professions, degrees… what don’t we compare!?


Thus we have resigned ourselves to a life of endless comparisons between ourselves and those around us, both near and far. And then all kinds of thoughts begin to pop up in our minds, such as, “Where am I holding within the accepted social level?” (As if someone determines a specific level which is the norm and we fall below this level…) And, “Is it possible that someone really is more successful than me, and maybe I’m lagging behind?!”...


We make these comparisons with spirituality as well. We’re always busy analyzing the people around us and comparing our level to theirs. “Where is he holding with regards to prayer, and where am I holding? That guy is reaching high spiritual levels, and even though I began coming closer to Hashem before he did, I’m still stuck in the same place…”


And the list goes on and on.


However, Rabbi Nachman of Breslev teaches us two rules which bring an end to all of this terrible confusion, and with these two rules he also brings us the secret to living a happy life:


Number One: “That is his doing, and this is my doing.”


Number Two: “And furthermore, why should we speak about others?”


If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, just know that we’re talking about the secret to the joy and fulfillment of the Simple One from Rebbe Nachman’s story, The Sophisticate and The Simpleton. This is the essence of the Simple One’s approach to life. Rebbe Nachman says about the Simple One, “He was constantly filled with joy and happiness”. Who wouldn’t want to always be filled with joy and happiness? I don’t think you can find anyone in the world who doesn’t desire happiness.


“That is his doing, and this is my doing” – each and every person was placed into the world for a completely different purpose. There can be no comparisons. Each person’s life story is unique. Therefore, I’m not at all interested in anyone else’s life.


“And furthermore, why should we speak about others?” I get my profits, so why should it bother me that others are more successful and make more money than me? Though their life seems better than mine, why should I get confused?


Do you get it? The root of all despair and sadness is comparisons.


All difficulties and bitterness that a person has are rooted in comparisons. As a result of these comparisons, he reaches all kinds of erroneous conclusions, such as -  I’m a loser, Hashem doesn’t love me, He doesn’t have mercy on me, this is my luck, I have no hope of ever changing… the list is long. Very long. When we are in this state, it is very easy and simple for the Evil Inclination to weaken us and cause us to fall into sadness and depression.


But the truth is that the differences between each person are so vast that there is no room for comparison. Each one of us is coming from a different place, is a different reincarnation, in a whole different situation, and we each have our own soul rectification and mission. So what is there to complain about? Why even compare? Comparing our situation to another’s only serves to prove the point that we lack understanding of how this world works and what we are doing here.


When a person reaches the realization that each one of us has our own specific soul correction and specific mission to fulfill, it becomes clear that there is no place for comparisons, because our situation was tailor made for us so that we could accomplish what we were sent down here to do.


This is why we each received a different toolbox and our own bundle of challenges. One person is expected to reach perfection in something, while another needs only to strengthen himself and not run away when he’s half way there. All comparisons are complete foolishness.


Comparisons carry a very heavy price. Life with comparisons to everything and everyone can slowly create frustrations and questions in one’s heart. “As everyone progresses, I'm being left behind... How can it be that the friend I went to school with succeeded in life and became a successful businessman, while I am a salaried employee with a paycheck that does not cover my basic expenses? Why is my brother succeeding in everything he does, while nothing works out for me? She's reaching all the right places, and I can’t move a millimeter in my own life...”


Comparisons have very destructive consequences:


The first is tremendous disappointment and deep frustration with one’s personal situation. Sometimes it is also accompanied by accusations and self-persecution. “Why am I not reaching higher?”


The second is that one’s spirit and mind become completely worn out and exhausted, and he is left with no desire or motivation to improve and change.


The third is that a person constantly has questions and complaints against anyone and everyone, but mainly directs his complaints to Heaven, to the Creator of the World: “Why did G-d put me in this situation? What did I ever do to Him?”


The fourth is comparisons intensify one’s suffering and anguish in this world.


All of the above are a recipe for depression and sadness. They bring a person directly into the arms of despair, preventing him from moving on. What's more, when a person makes comparisons he is transgressing the commandment, “You shall not covet.” He falls into jealousy which destroys every good part inside of him, and more.


Rabbi Nachman of Breslev, through the Simple One, teaches us how we can be saved from all the thoughts and comparisons that disturb us, and how to free ourselves completely from this terrible thing and enjoy a life full of happiness and joy.


That is his work, and this is my work. The Simple One surrounds himself with a high spiritual wall, inside of which only he and no other creation can be found. His mode of living is that other people’s matters don’t interest him at all, not in an egotistical sense, but specifically coming from a place of love - someone else’s issues are his alone, and mine belong only to me.


And furthermore, why should we speak about others?  It’s our nature to be curious and to want to gather information, to know what’s going on with other people, not for any specific reason but because we want to gather general knowledge. What is he doing with his life? How is he managing with his salary? How does he live with five children in a three-room apartment? All of these are purposeless questions, which only serve to satisfy our curiosity. And there are those who take this even further and feel that it is their duty to periodically gather the neighborhood statistics and find out all the necessary details (for themselves of course).


Rabbi Nachman reveals to us that whoever lives his life like the Simple One, with these two rules: 1. that is his work, and this is my work and 2. and furthermore, why should we speak about others?, and constructs a fortified wall around himself, will not reach the place of doubts and comparisons. He will always be happy for others’ successes and he’ll be satisfied with his own work as well. He will not persecute or blame himself, others or the Creator, and he will believe with complete faith that all that the Creator does is the very best for him. He will wish everyone around him all the good in the world.

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