A chasidic discourse by Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn of Lubavitch
Translated & Annotated By: Rabbi Yosef Marcus
Additional Annotation By: Rabbi Avraham D. Vaisfiche
The Simple Servant is part of the classic, legendary treatise known to Chasidim as hemshech Samach-Vov. This series of sixty-one discourses, delivered from the beginning of 5666 through the winter of 5668 (1905-1907), was revolutionary in its wealth of topics and profundity.
This is the first translation into English of a discourse in this historical series.
The discourse elaborates upon three of personalities with distinct approaches to devine service: 1) The child of G-d – whose commitment to g-d requires no work on his part, no meditation or introspection- yet is natural. 2) The loyal servant of G-d – who, although remaining a distinct entity with some self awareness and identity, is motivated by his appreciation of, and love for, G-d, and therefore derives great pleasure and joy from doing the will of G-d. 3) The Simple Servant of G-d- who is driven by his acceptance of the yoke of heaven, is not motivated by an overwhelming love for G-d, and has no pleasure in the work he does. Yet he does his work consistently because he has no other identity outside of being a servant of G-d.
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Is there a point to keeping the commandments if their logic is not clear?
A new translation and annotation of a 102-year-old Chabad Chasidic text probes the question.
“When a Jew does a mitzvah today he is doing so not because of any self-oriented motivation. He doesn’t see how the mitzvah is the best thing for him. He doesn’t sense the immense power of the mitzvah and the sweetness and beauty of uniting with G-d through His commandments,” Rabbi Yossi Marcus writes in the overview of U’Mikneh Rav, in English translation, The Simple Servant, the latest Chassidic Heritage Series (CHS) volume released by Kehot Publication Society.
Answering to a divine will that transcends human comprehension comes with its own majesty. It is not, as is sometimes presumed, just an answer to the uneducated, but spiritually curious individual.
“Every person regardless of whether they are simple or sophisticated has within him a capacity to be simple in the presence of G-d, as part of their service of G-d,” said Rabbi Marcus.
This is one of the points made by the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersoh n (1860-1920) who conveyed U’Mikneh Rav as part of a larger series. He was building upon ideas first shared by the second Rebbe in the Lubavitch dynasty, and delineating a structure for them, a theme of Rabbi Shalom DovBer’s approach to teaching and leadership.
In addition to reciting numerous discourses, Rabbi Shalom DovBer founded the first Chasidic Yeshiva “Tomchei Temimim.” It was the first time anyone incorporated systematic study of Chasidic philosophy into the rigorous yeshiva educational curriculum.
Today’s spiritual descendants of those first Chabad yeshiva students generally study this discourse, in the original Hebrew, during their freshman year of rabbinical college, because the concepts in this series of discourses demand attentive study to achieve comprehension.
U’Mikneh Rav is considered fundamental to a yeshiva students’ education because it details concepts referenced in many later discourses and talks by later Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbes, according to Chasidic Heritage Series senior editor, Rabbi David Olidort.
A peek at the handsome volume reveals a smooth and readable translation that remains true to the elegant, fin de siecle tone of Rabbi Shalom DovBer’s style. Thorough notes help the novice navigate through Chassidic concepts alluded to throughout the text.
Inviting those who need extra help to understand Chasidic discourses into the inner circle of advanced study is the common denominator among all members of the Chassidic Heritage Series. U’Mikneh Rav is the nineteenth volume, and it has many fans.
Studying the discourses published in the Heritage Series has another advantage, says Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman, co-editor of the series. "These volumes aim to give students the ability not only to understand the concepts but to actually learn them in the words of the Rebbe, from the original text.”
U’Mikneh Rav is a sophisticated look at the profundity of Divine Service as expressed in simple devotion. .