• Rabbi Chaim Richman

Shoftim - The Art of Simplicity

In the Torah portion of Shoftim, we find the verse “be wholehearted (tamim) with Hashem your G-d” (Deut. 18:13.) We can understand the injunction “be wholehearted with Hashem your G-d” as follows: with every mitzvah that we perform, we should be wholehearted with Hashem, meaning – we should endeavor to fulfill the commandment with simplicity, not striving to achieve a high level of mystical meaning which we may or may not understand, and not because we are emotionally moved...but because Hashem commanded it...as our sages teach: Why we blow the shofar on Rosh HaShana? Because Hashem commanded to us blow. As a result of the emunah, the faith that this is the will of Hashem and by this action, we are fulfilling the Divine will.


This is what it means to fulfill the mitzvah of “and you shall be wholehearted...” – to keep the command as Hashem the Creator commanded me. Even if I don’t know the reasons, or understand all the deep kavanot (intentions) – and even if I can’t get myself to feel anything, and I am not stirred emotionally, I will still perform the commandments with simple faith because I know that it is Hashem’s will. Because, open up your hearts in the deepest way – as much as we (think we) know and as much as we (think we) understand of the holy Torah, the truth is, we know nothing, our knowledge is zero, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet – to know the truth of its depth and its highest purpose and intention – how can a person, a human being, ever really expect to comprehend Hashem’s Torah completely?


So much has been revealed to us, yet it is still beyond our comprehension. The holy Baal Shem Tov used to speak about this and these were his wry and telling comments on the verse (Psalms 19:8): “the Torah of Hashem is perfect”…and the word in the verse is temima, perfect – he said, the reason Hashem’s Torah is ‘perfect,’ meaning complete or whole, is because no one has even touched it yet! It is still totally whole like the day it was given because no one has even begun to scratch its surface to understand its depth, and it remains untouched. He also stated that after all the great and lofty levels of spiritual realization and knowledge he merited to reach, all that was important and worthwhile in his eyes, was only simple faith – with no sophistication, philosophy or reasoning. Just believing in Hashem. May we merit to simple faith in Hashem throughout our lives and may our desire be to perform Hashem’s commandments for the sake of His will!

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