12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Each of us, at our own level, dreams more or less of knowing the secrets of the world. But, simplicity of thought, simplicity of action...


Each of us, at our own level, dreams more or less of knowing the secrets of the world. But, simplicity of thought, simplicity of action, this is the greatest secret!
"Be simple with the Almighty your God!"
"By being simple you will be with Him" (Rashi).
The Baal Shem Tov had a disciple of whom he was particularly fond. One day, the man came into the Master's presence intending to ask a favor, only to be surprised by the cold reception that he received.
The Baal Shem Tov was about to set out on a journey and invited him to come along, although still keeping his distance.
During the journey, in the carriage, the Baal Shem Tov suddenly broke the silence:
"Do you think that I don't know why you came to see me?"
The disciple began to tremble, feeling that his teacher was reading his thoughts.
"You came to ask me to teach you the language of the birds, didn't you?"
The disciple nodded. The Rabbi then began to teach him the keys to this secret science. In a very short time the disciple also began to understand the whistles of the birds in the forest through which they were traveling. Transported to another world, he heard magnificent conversations, great secrets were revealed to him, announcements concerning the future were heard, just as in the case of Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) who understood the language of the animals…
Suddenly, as they were approaching the end of their journey, the Baal Shem Tov passed his hand over the disciple's face. The disciple immediately forgot all that he had learned and was no longer able to understand what the birds were saying. The Rabbi then said to him:
"If I had thought that you needed this knowledge to serve the Almighty, I would have taught it to you a long time ago. But that is not the case; you must serve God with the means that you already possess and "be simple with the Almighty your God!"
Read the story of "The Wise Man and the Simpleton" (Rabbi Nachman's Stories #9). You will then understand his emphasis on simplicity and integrity. Following in the path of the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman shows that the purest fait is that of children and of the simple people.
Given our sophistication, and influenced as we are by contemporary mannerisms, we might consider simplicity unattainable, but this does not exempt us from trying, from hoping to succeed at least a little. (However, he enjoins us not to be foolish in our simplicity. See Advice, Simplicity)
We can now better understand the story of the Baal Shem Tov and the birdsong. Each of us, at our own level, dreams more or less of knowing the secrets of the world. We think that our lives will be better if we had some added knowledge or other. We forget that the Almighty is our guide and He will give us the knowledge we need in its proper time.
We should study the entire Torah, but by stages, and without trying to arrive at levels for which we have not yet prepared ourselves. As we progress in our knowledge with simplicity and joy, God will show us the right way. He will let us understand what we must know.
In their teachings, the Chassidic masters have extracted from the highest sources, the spiritual forces that we lack to accomplish the minimum of our responsibilities. When they initiate us into those mysteries, they do it with the required dose in order to prevent us from being destroyed by a light that is too strong. If we follow them simply, we will drink pure water without ever incurring any risk.
* * *
It is predicted that at the end of time, there will be a flood of heresy – not a flood of water, but of corrupted thoughts, and the highest mountains will be covered by it, even in the Land of Israel, where the first flood did not rage.
This means that corruption will penetrate into people's hearts, including the minds of great leaders and important people. No reflection, no wisdom will protect us from this danger. All the ministers and statesmen will disperse, no longer equal to their tasks.
The world will then be supported only by the merit of the simplest Jews, those who recite Tehillim. When the Moshiach arrives, it is they who will crown him!
Sometimes, enthusiasm derives from the evil inclination, and is expressed with exaggeration and excess. The wicked penchant can also be concealed in fervor and piety. Studying Torah despite hardship and begging constantly for God's mercy will restore values to their proper order and spare us the wiles of the devil disguised as a good angel.
Simplicity of thought, simplicity of action, this is the greatest secret!
How could a human being ever perfectly fulfill his duty? Has Torah been given to angels? Could God request from man be complicated, far above his means?
Some people seek perfection in their divine worship and since they never reach it, they often harbor deep resentment and nourish feelings of discouragement. This could eventually lead them to total abandonment, which would be completely absurd.
Rebbe Nachman considered devout exaggerations as an imbalance, a form of sophistication and a source of anguish. He laid great stress on simplicity and purity to guide us in our duties – God is not a tyrant. A worshipper can never attain perfection, therefore it is not required from us. A man should choose one good practice towards which his heart is drawn; he can seek to embellish it although without excess. He will perform all the other duties in the most simple manner as prescribed, without adding to or subtracting from them.
(Used with permission from COURAGE by Israel Isaac Besancon. Published by Shir Chadash Publishers).

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