Friday, May 17, 2019

Lessons from the Holy Simpleton

From “Shaarey Tzaddik” By Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, zatzal
Vol. 2, Letter 46

Concluding remarks, related to Rebbe Nachman’s story of the Sophisticate and the Simpleton (Chokhom va-Tam)

Translation by Dovid Sears

[Reb Gedaliah presents the following summary of the points addressed by the body of this letter to a young yeshiva student:]

1.       It is extremely precious in Hashem’s sight when one serves Him with wholehearted simplicity (temimus u-peshitus).

2.       It is especially precious to Hashem when that service of wholehearted simplicity is founded on the “holy mountains,” which are higher consciousness and knowledge (ha-mochin vi-ha-da’as). That is, after all the lofty insights and exalted wisdom one may have attained in divine service, one merits to fulfill the mitzvos with wholehearted simplicity, like that of a nursing infant, and casts away all sophistication (chokhmos) when actually performing them.

3.       Divine service through performance of the holy mitzvos achieves perfection when informed by the [knowledge and] resolution [of the diverse views] of the halakhic authorities.

4.       Through this, all the entirely simple acts of divine service are spiritually elevated and accepted, both those performed when one was in the actual condition of a simple person [i.e., lacking da’as] and those performed after one had reached a high spiritual rung. This is hinted to in the inner depths (sod) of the holy story of “The Sophisticate and the Simpleton.”

It is explained in the Rebbe’s remarks, which he made after telling the story, that the entire narrative revolves around the theme of divine service. As printed at the end of the story: “And if a prayer is not as it should be, it is a ‘shoe with three corners’”; see there. And we have already written that this does not only apply to prayer specifically, but to all aspects of divine service—for the Rebbe’s words are all-encompassing principles.

1.       We also see that in the beginning of the story, when the Simpleton was an entirely simple man, he engaged in the trade of shoe-making. He was not expert in his craft, and when he would finish a shoe that had three corners, since he had not fully mastered his craft—then, too, he found favor in the King’s eyes, and [the King] appointed him governor.

2.       After he is made governor and travels to the King at the latter’s behest, when the King begins to discuss matters of wisdom with him and to speak with him in various languages, the Simpleton answers appropriately. This pleases the King even more, and he says, “I see that you are such as sage as this, and yet you conduct yourself with utter simplicity!” And this is so good in the King’s sight that he appoints him chief minister over all the royal ministers.

3.       The Simpleton governed the country with truth, justice and simplicity. When two disputants appeared before him to adjudicate their case, he would say, “You are innocent, and you are guilty!” This represents the paradigm of attaining deep understanding of the Torah, to the point that one is capable of rendering correct decisions in halakhah.

4.       As for the Rebbe’s explanation that the shoe represents prayer, although it alludes to all forms of divine service—this shows that even such a [defective] prayer will ultimately be elevated [i.e., by virtue of a subsequent prayer that is said with proper kavanah (intention), a subject that Reb Gedaliah mentions earlier in the letter].

The end of the matter is to fear Hashem (Ecclesiastes 12:13), the Glorious and Blessed One, and to fulfill his mitzvos to the fullest, with simplicity and joy, constantly. And one should awaken holy joy, particularly through harmless jokes and by fooling around, as long as one watches out that this does not turn into improper behavior (holelus), G-d forbid. This is indicated in the story by the Simpleton always remaining happy; and when people come to converse with him in order to make fun of him, he would converse with them, although he seemed to them like a madman. He would say to them, “Just as long as you’re not joking…”—understand this well.

However, it is impossible to merit to attain all this except through attachment (hiskashrus) to and faith in the true tzaddik. As elucidated in the abovementioned lesson, “Chadi Rabbi Shimon” [Likutey Moharan I, 61), through emunas chakhomim, faith in the sages, we are able to render correct judgments; see there. Even someone on an extremely high spiritual rung needs to attach himself to and have faith in the true tzaddik, who is greater than himself.

This is discussed in the story when the holy Simpleton, even after attaining his lofty status, after the King has appointed him chief minister over the other royal ministers, still remained attached to the true “Baal Shem,” and asked the latter for his advice in all matters. And this is discussed in many, many other places in the Rebbe’s teachings.

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