This column includes small doses of Rebbe Nachman’s wisdom, helping us to get through the week in a more spiritual way.
“And do not rely on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
Rebbe Nachman tells us an important foundational concept in Likutey Moharan II, 12: “When we follow our own reasoning and intellect, we can succumb to many errors and pitfalls, and even come to great evil. There are people who have done much harm – such as the famous villains who led others astray all through their own reasoning and intellect.”
He continues, “The essence of Judaism is to walk in pure simplicity and innocence, without cleverness or cunning.”
What does it mean to “walk in pure simplicity…without cleverness?” Surely this does not mean we are to act in an unintelligent manner! And certainly it does not mean we shouldn’t pursue wisdom to our utmost ability!
The answer is that when established Jewish law tells us what is permissible and what is not, we must accept this as G-d’s will even when to our intellect it seems counterintuitive.
There is no shortage of examples throughout Jewish history showing the terrible consequences of ignoring this important principle.
Perhaps the most well-known example is that of Korach who famously (or infamously) asked Moshe if a house full of holy books requires a mezuza. When Moshe responded in the affirmative, Korach was quick to mock this halacha by highlighting how illogical it seemed.
Putting aside our own intellect and simply doing what the Torah says we must do is an act of humility. Humility requires of us to not think we know better than the Torah.
In today’s modern world where we are often ridiculed for clinging to ancient and seemingly outdated practices, and are told to “question everything,” Rebbe Nachman is telling us the exact opposite. Following after one’s own puny intellect is a potentially dangerous endeavor that could have grave spiritual consequences. Proceed with extreme caution!
He continues, “Examine your every deed to see if G-d is there. Pay no attention whatsoever to your own honor. If a certain act will enhance G-d’s glory, do it – and if not, not. Then certainly you “will never stumble.”
May Hashem help us to serve Him with simplicity and wholeheartedness. Amen.