I am just back from Jersey and my beloved Grandmother’s funeral. I am sad and weary and feel the loss, but I know that her memory is and will be a blessing. She was 103, but it wasn’t enough… I wanted more… needed more, but it was not to be.
My next post will be about just that… sitting Shiva… and the process of loss and healing.
I have seen Defending Your Life… many times! The word fear can be paralyzing… debilitating… it can be a dream killer. I hate that notion of fear, especially the fear that prevents me from acting… that keeps me on lockdown… that holds me back.
I know that fear has its time and place to keep us rational… and safe and sound… to help us make wise decisions. Like everything in life, extremes are usually dangerous… and while fearlessness can be a great attribute, it can also be quite risky. It is all about balance.
And Fear of G-d… Hmmm. I want to love Hashem… be close to him… I don’t want to “fear” him. When I was in Jerusalem the JMI Boys spent a nice hour studying with a group of Yeshiva boys…
… And our table spent the entire time talking about this very notion… and wishing instead that the word “Awe” was used in its place. We want to be in awe of Hashem… and we should be…
We should see G-d in everything… we should see daily miracles and take great joy in them. We should be in Awe of all that G-d has created… but fear? Cowering, shaking fear?
Ben actually helped me get a better grasp on the notion of the “Fear of G-d.” He wrote: “To fear God simply means to see that everything we do has a consequence.”
He continued: “But I don’t want to be making the “right choice” because of a consequence of some judgement. I want to make the right choice because it’s the right thing to do!”… And “Doing right for right’s sake supersedes doing right out of fear. “
Yes to all of that! Let us do the right thing… let us act for that reason first and foremost… and as I discussed a few posts back… Don’t do the nice thing, do the right thing!
But with each generation, we are moving further and further away, it seems. Long gone are the Prophets… and the actual Temple… and with them, we are seemingly losing so much of the glory and power of Judaism.
Generations are falling… drowning…
On my Israel trip we went to the Dead Sea, and my dear friend Rabbi Shlomo asked a question:
How can a place so desolate, where nothing can live in its waters, be so holy? How can a place so low, be so high?
I pondered, deeply… I let the questions wash over me… literally… and I said that because this is the lowest place on earth, it allows us the most space to ascend… to climb… to grow…
Not only can we really say, it’s only up from here… but we have infinite possibility.
That answer gives me comfort, especially when I am feeling low… or contemplating how far away from certain things we may be as a people… how far away I am…
I understand fear now, and what it means… and I truly understand awe. And as I floated in the salty waters and looked to the endless sky, I knew I was on a new and different journey… a powerful path, full of potential… Though my heart was filled with bliss and joy, I also had fear… and awe and excitement and love… It’s only up from here!
For most of my life, I’ve had the same issue with the “fear” vs “awe” thing that you described, including more than a decade after becoming shomer Torah u’mitzvos. Only recently did I really hit on a satisfactory description of the proper mindset for “fearing G-d,” one similar but not exactly the same as what Ben suggests (I hunted down that post since you referred to it). I found the explanation in Alan Morinis’s “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” (if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a mussar sefer that is for a broader audience than just Orthodox Jews).
Morinis bases the following, I think, on teachings of the Novardok yeshiva:
Yirah is not entirely independent of Ahava. We fear consequences because of how they affect the things we prize and the people that we love.
This means the consequence someone who is a yirei shamayim fears most is not the patch they will get if they sin. A yirei shamayim has a strong belief that Hashem asks us to do mitzvos, and that doing them enhances our bond to Him. If they truly love Hashem, and really want a relationship with Him, that connection is their most treasured possession. Therefore, the thing they most fear is anything that endangers the connection they have with Hashem.
Thus, the fear isn’t of the punishment, but of the weakening of their bond to Hashem.
Phenomenal! Thanks so much for the response. This has some real insight, and I can get behind that… We fear losing our bond and connection… Makes a lot of sense… and still allows us to be in Awe of Hashem!
LikeLiked by 1 person