David said: Man’s desires are in a constant state of flux and change. Each moment breeds new whims and fresh requests. I am not so. . . . What I requested in the past is what I still want and will continue to desire in the future, because this one request embodies all of my desires! (Malbim, cited in Artscroll Tehillim)
Simplicity is to ask God for just one thing, the one thing that is above all other things we might want. In a simple reading of the Psalm, David is saying that he wants to remain in the courtyard of the Tabernacle, the place of worship, “to behold the beauty of Hashem and to meditate in his sanctuary” (Ps. 27:4b). “House of Hashem” was a literal place, but it’s clear from the next verse that it has a wider application as well, as David uses a variety of terms to describe this place of meeting with God. “He will hide me in his shelter [his sukkah in the Hebrew] in the day of trouble; he will conceal me in the secret place of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.”
David longs for the tabernacle where Hashem was worshiped in his day, but he longs most of all to draw so close to God that he is hidden away, safe in him. This, as Malbim comments, embodies all his desires. Being hidden in God doesn’t mean escape from the world, for David later says that he’s confident that he’ll behold the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, within the realities of life itself. Rather, being hidden in God speaks of nearness, reliance, and focus on Hashem, which enables us to actively live in a way that honors him.
So the tabernacle isn’t a place of escape, but a place of encounter with God. In the ultimate sense, the tabernacle isn’t a place at all, but the encounter itself, the safe and solid rock of God with us. When Messiah came, he spoke of himself as the tabernacle, as the point of encounter with God. Rav Shaul describes the simplicity of seeking this one thing, the life that is hidden in Messiah:
If then you were raised with Messiah, seek those things that are above, where Messiah is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God. When Messiah who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1–4)
To set your mind on things above and not on earthly things entails the practice of simplicity. And it’s the key to real life. Out of the simplicity of deep, abiding contact with the Lord arises all of the other virtues and practices that mussar fosters, and that we are to especially renew during this season of the year.