The Simplicity of Truth

The principle of minimum energy which is a restatement of the second law of thermodynamics states that whenever possible, the energy required is minimal. Any collection of particles will always tend toward their lower energy state. The lex parsimoniae, formulated by William of Ockham essentially means the same – the simplest solution is correct,

The Torah, in this week’s portion, spells out the same idea way before both the monk William and the plethora of great scientists who worked on the second law of thermodynamics. God speaks with the children of Israel on Dvarim 30: 12-15. “Surely the commandment which I set upon you this day is not too baffling for you nor is it beyond reach.”  It is neither in heavens nor it is beyond the sea. It is not inaccessible, not unobtainable, not mysterious but, as Torah continues, “it is in your mouth and in your heart.”

Rabbi Isaac Arama, Ba’al Akedah, wrote, “If one applies oneself properly to the truth of God’s revealed word, i.e the Torah, then appreciating it becomes a simple matter. From that point onwards there are no real impediments or difficulties in achieving one’s aim.”

In any teaching process, there is a danger when the teacher is tempted to use the most baffling and obscure explanation of the point purely to showcase the advanced knowledge that the students do not possess. It is incredibly easy to baffle people with lengthy words and complicated concepts.

However, Torah teaches us the contrary. God speaks to us in the simplest possible ways, sometimes through the most mundane actions or the most common words. If there were an eleventh commandment, it probably would say, “Do not overcomplicate things”, The deception is often spectacular and decorative, the truth, on the other hand, is always simple.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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