Tevet 21
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Tevet 21

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God (Psalms 111:10).

Would it not have been more appropriate to refer to the fear of God as the beginning of piety rather than wisdom?

One of the Chassidic masters interpreted the above verse most uniquely. "The fear of God," he said, "refers not to man's fear of God, but to God's fear." It might seem strange to speak of God as having fear, but his explanation quells this objection.

God has decreed that people have free will. Although everything else in the universe is under Divine control, God wishes our moral choice to be free, and He therefore does not intervene to influence our moral decisions. Since God wishes us to be just and virtuous, He thus has a fear that we will harm ourselves by sin. This fear is similar to that of parents who fear that their young children may harm themselves by doing things that they do not recognize as dangerous.

If we would realize that everything else in the universe is controlled by God, and that only our moral choice is not under Divine control, we would then concentrate on moral choices and leave everything else up to God. It would be wise, therefore, if we had the fear that God has for us; namely, that we might sin. We show wisdom, not just piety, if we devote our attention to what is not under Divine control.

Today I shall...

try to turn my attention and efforts to my moral choices, since these are really the only things that are decided by my choice.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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