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The Joy of the Simple Life

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Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
— Proverbs 10:9

We begin a new year of devotional teachings from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with a focus on joy, simcha — the joy found in the grateful acceptance and celebration of each day God has given to us. Join us as we explore Rabbi Eckstein’s teachings on the joy found in connecting with God and with others.

We invite you to dig deeper into the Jewish roots of Christianity with Rabbi Eckstein’s monthly teaching series, Limmud. Check it out here.

One of the great paradoxes of our times is that we have more conveniences, more time-saving technology, and more of just about everything at our fingertips, and yet we have less – or at least we feel like we have less — less time, less peace, less joy. Despite the great abundance of our era, so many people feel lacking.

In Proverbs, King Solomon taught us to live a simple life. He wrote, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely.” In Hebrew, the word used in the verse for the word “integrity” is tom, which means both “simple” and “complete.” This is because one who lives a simple life feels complete.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the famous 18th-century Ukrainian teacher, shared many stories as a form of teaching biblical concepts. One of his more famous tales is called “The Simpleton and the Sophisticate.” The story compares the lives of two different men – one simple and one sophisticated.

The simple man doesn’t have much and isn’t one of the best in his trade. Yet, he is always happy and satisfied with what he has. He is honest and straight as an arrow in all his dealings with others. He is also confident and peaceful with who he is and has no need to pretend to be anyone or anything different.

The sophisticated man on the other hand is knowledgeable, well-traveled, and worldly. He excels in many areas and is clever about how to make more money and do things better. Yet, he is never satisfied with himself or with what he has. He has this nagging feeling that he should be more and have more. Ultimately, his depression and sense of failure leads to a bitter life. Conversely, the simple man rises to prominence on account of his reliability and reputation for integrity.

The moral of the story? The simple life is the best life.

The fact that life has never been easier for many of us and, yet at the same time, has never been more complicated is proof that the problem is not our circumstances but our expectations. We can simplify our lives. And when we do, not only will we be happier and more satisfied, but we will also be better servants of God.

How can we have time to serve God when we are overly busy? How can we connect with God if we are bogged down with complications and worries? As we have seen in previous devotions, connecting with God is the ultimate source of our joy.

Today, let us begin to uncomplicated our lives by determining which areas of our life can be simplified. Where can we take less and give more? Where might we cut back and have more? When it comes to character, be your most authentic self. Serve God simply and with the joy that follows.

Check out Rabbi Eckstein’s study on Abraham, the father of our faiths, Abraham, in his Limmud (“study” in Hebrew) teaching, “Abraham: The Patriarch of Loving-kindness.”

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