Weekly Letter: Simplicity, The Function of Faith
Having just received the Torah – with its multitude of mitzvos and seeming complexity – we share a letter of the Rebbe in which he explains the principle of SIMPLICITY, which determines the function of faith and by extension nature, with its multiplicity and complexity.
Mr. _______ 5715
Greeting and Blessing:
I have received your letter in reply to mine, in which I touched on the subject of simple faith.
You refer to what seems to you a contradiction to the beauty of “simple” faith in the fact that the complexity and multiplicity in Nature, particularly in the world of plants and animals, rather add to, than detract from, the beauty of things, and you wonder if the same may not be true of faith.
The argument would perhaps be valid if we were speaking of the “superficial,” and not of the innermost and essential aspects of things. Actually, the analogy from Nature only confirms what I wrote to you in my previous letter….
For, needless to say, I did not mean to imply that a person, especially a Jew, should be content with faith alone, or that our religion is a simple matter. As you know, the Torah contains 613 varied and distinct precepts, each one possessing multiple facets, and G-d expects every Jew and Jewess to reflect on them in their daily life according to individual circumstance. This certainly makes for a variety of religious experience and practice for all Jews to the best of their ability–as our Sages ruled, “A rich man bringing a poor man’s offering has not fulfilled his duty.”1 This rule, of course, applies as much to the realm of the spiritual as to that of the material. However, all this religious practice and experience, in all its variety, has to be based on and permeated with the same basic faith in G-d, a simple and absolute faith.
The analogy in nature is to be found in the fact that, for all the complexity and multiplicity of plant and animal life, their basic and ultimate components are single cells, (though the cell itself consists of a variety of components which science has by no means fully unraveled). It is only when these elementary cells behave as they were designed to, in their simple functions of growth, division and multiplication, without interference from foreign elements that the complex organism is properly attuned and able to carry out its most amazing functions.
Even in the inorganic world, as well as in the organic, the great complexity and multiplicity of things have been ‘reduced’ to the relatively small number of some one hundred basic elements, and science is endeavoring now to reduce their complicated nuclear composition to its most fundamental building-blocks, in order to get closer to the secrets of Nature. Here, too, the basic function of Nature is determined not by the principle of complexity, but by that of simplicity, the tiny particle, the atom, the core of things and, at a deeper level, by its very small number of components.