One of my online friends posted a question on his page asking, “What is pashtus, really?” I found this an interesting question, and joined the discussion, which has led to this post.
As I’m sure, many of you have heard the phrase “Poshute Yid,” or you’ve heard the various times Rebbe Nachman talks about how the greatest goal is to just be simple. This can be a very difficult avodah, because in our primarily Western worldview, to be Poshut or simple is a bad thing. We think of sophistication as being the highest virtue most of the time, this comes from the long line of philosophers who have influenced the society we are surrounded by. To be simple is to be closed-minded, unintelligent, and generally implying one doesn’t have much of an intellectual life. The idea of Pashtus in Yiddishkait is quite different, though.
Being poshut doesn’t mean to not make cheshbonos, as would be expected through our Occidental bias. Rebbe Nachman talked about how our greatest goal is to be a pushete Yid, and his seforim are full of that sort of stuff. He also encourages everyone to learn both Talmuds every year, and to finish the entirety of the Torah as frequently as possible, clearly he doesn’t mean one should be ignorant. The point is to just try to be balanced about your focuses in avodas Hashem rather than obsessive. The Baal HaTanya says to set aside a set time per day to go and think about your errors and make cheshbon nefesh, rather than focusing on these things constantly.
In Iggeres HaTshuva the Baal HaTanya explains that constant cheshbonos can lead to depression, therefore only for a set period of time per day should you do this. Otherwise the avodah has to be kept simple according to the person’s level. For some people davening with kavannos HaRashash is simple avodah, for others it’s not. You have to figure out what makes you happiest in avodas Hashem and what is honestly feasible, and push towards that.
To go more על פי סוד, we could say that to be פשוט is to reach for and attain התפשטות הנפש with Hashem and dissolve into Him, like it says נכספה וגם כלתה נפשי, I desired and my nefesh was consumed, according to one way of translating the posuk from Tehillim. That’s truly being poshut, the act of dissolving yourself into Hashem, כביכול, through Torah and tefillah.