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GOOD MORNING! I received the following letter: "(In regard to your blessing for your new grandson) that he 'grow up to love God, fear God and to fulfill His commandments' - I have a problem with the FEAR word since I don't fear God and I don't believe we should use fear as a basis for worship. It should not be tied into our own personal beliefs. 'Love' yes; 'Fear' no. Could you please provide comment?"
Why do people have an initial repugnance to the idea of fear? They focus on the debilitating, freezing fear that paralyzes them from acting. Fear can be painful. It is also a lower means of motivating someone to do something. Yet, people (some people, not me) seek the exhilarating fear of a roller coaster that frees them from their daily concerns and lets them thrill to just being alive! One needs to get past associated emotions and focus on the function of fear.
Human beings are complex. We respond to various motivations in different situations.
We love our children. We remember their birthdays. We buy them presents. We go to great sacrifices for their well-being.
We (some of us) fear our boss. We won't be late. We won't displease him. We'll make sure our work is done fully and accurately to avoid his wrath.
Love motivates us to do the positive. Fear motivates us to refrain from the negative.
The Hebrew word for "fear" is "yir'ah." The root of the word "yir'ah" is related to the same root of the Hebrew word "lir'ote" which means "to see." The concept is simple. The essence of fear is to see the consequences. Why does a person fear? He foresees the possible consequences.
If a person loves hiking and is walking on a very narrow path along the edge of a mountain with a sheer drop of 10,000 feet, should he be concerned about the consequences? Would he be better off blindfolded so that he won't see the precipitous drop which so inspires fear? There is a time to embrace fear for one's benefit.
The goal of life is to live and to grow in reality. If there is something to be feared, then fear it. If you can avoid the situation or deal with it, then all the better. However, to blithely ignore what might cause you harm is not living in or dealing with reality.
The Torah is comprised of 613 commandments (yes, 613 ... not just the 10 of Cecil B. DeMille). There are 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments. All of the commandments of the Almighty are to help us reach our potential as human beings - spiritually, morally, inter-personally, communally. The Hebrew word "Torah" translates as "instructions." And the Torah is often referred to as "Toras Chaim" - Instructions for Life. It is our handbook for this world (as well as achieving the next world, the World to Come!).
God commanded us to fulfill his mitzvot for our good. There are consequences to our actions.
If there really is a God, if He really did give the Jewish people the Torah and if He really did command us what to do and what not to do in our lives - would it make sense to investigate the questions rather than walk blindfolded through life? Do we know more or less than the 150 generations of our forefathers who knew the Torah and lived by it?
I highly recommend Lawrence Keleman's books Permission to Believe and Permission to Receive for anyone who needs more information to make an intelligent, informed decision on whether there is a God, did He give us the Torah and our obligations regarding the commandments. They are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
What is the source in the Torah for the commandment to Fear God? In Deuteronomy 10:20, the Torah tells us, "The Lord, your God you shall fear..." This is actually one of the 6 Constant Commandments that are upon us at all times. Imagine if you thought of stealing an apple, but focused on the fact that there is a God who commanded you not to steal! It would certainly upgrade Wall Street and a lot of business dealings!
There is a second aspect of the commandment to Fear God. An aspect of "fear" is "awe" - to see the awesome power, love and concern that the Almighty has for us, His creation. When one sees the snow-covered Alps or a sunset from the beach of a Hawaiian island, he is often filled with this sense of existential oneness, awesomeness.
The Sages teach us in the Talmud that to serve God out of fear is "avodah garuah" - a low class service. Ultimate service of God and relationship with God should be out of love of God - appreciation for all of the gifts the Almighty has given us - life, a beautiful world, sustenance, free will, the Torah! It's your pleasure!
What I have written is little and insufficient. Please go to aish.com and search: "Constant Mitzvot" and click on "Fear of God".
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe relays the Almighty's commands to refrain from building the Mishkan ( the Tabernacle) on the Shabbat, to contribute items needed to build the Mishkan, to construct the components of the Mishkan and the appurtenances of the Cohanim. The craftsmen are selected, the work begins. The craftsmen report that there are too many donations, and for the first and probably the only time in fundraising history, the Jewish people are told to refrain from bringing additional contributions!
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And the entire congregation of the Children of Israel went out from the presence of Moshe." (Exodus 35:20)
Why does the Torah point this out to us? What can we learn from these words?
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian commented on this verse that it was noticeable that they were in the presence of Moshe as they were parting from him. If you see someone who was at a bar, it will be noticeable in the way he talks and walks. One can easily perceive that someone is drunk from his actions and speech.
Similarly, when someone seriously studies Torah, it should be noticeable from the way he behaves that he has been studying Torah. Torah is meant to change a person, to impact his being as well as his behavior. This is what the verse expresses: everyone could tell from the elevated manner in which the people behaved that they had just come from Moshe.
Whenever you learn Torah or when you have been in a Torah environment, it should be noticeable from your deeds and traits that you have been in a spiritual environment.
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 4:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:52 Hong Kong 6:10 Honolulu 6:17
J'Burg 6:17 London 5:27 Los Angeles 5:33
Melbourne 6:34 Mexico City 6:28 Miami 6:06
Moscow 5:53 New York 5:33 Singapore 7:02
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
And in the end it's not the years
in your life that count.
It's the life in your years.
-- Abraham Lincoln
With Special Thanks to