To fear or not to fear
Fear is a dirty word these days. Fear holds us back and inhibits us. We wish we weren’t afraid of anything. The human race aspires for the inner courage to act as they wish, even if it might bring with it some shame. We are inundated by the media with slogans such as ‘just do it!’, ‘go for it’ and ‘have no fear’. Even Rebbe Nachman famously said that, “A person must pass over a very narrow bridge [in life] and the main thing is not at all to be afraid.” (Tinyana 48)
Our enemies wish to instill fear in us. ‘Terrorism’ is a term that really only started some forty years ago. Western civilization wants nothing more than to eradicate it and live free of fear. In fact, one of the major keywords of democracy, which most of the world views as the correct and fairest governmental body, is freedom. Of course in democracy, for the safety of civilization we must obey the law, but what’s imperative is the freedom to practice whatever it is we want, without fear of punishment. A major drawback of democracy’s goal for freedom has been liberalism, with its skewed views of truth and blurry boundary lines.
In Bechor Beheima 4 Reb Nosson brings from the Rebbe that our ultimate perfection in this world comes through fear, (that is fear of Heaven). As Moses said to Israel before he passed (Deuteronomy 10), “What does Hashem want from you but to fear Him”? And as King Solomon ends his mysterious Ecclesiastes, “After all is said, fear God”.
Reb Nosson explains that the main point of life is to find and recognize Hashem in this world. The only way to truly acknowledge and identify Hashem in our lives is by negating our ego in acceptance of His will. In an amazing line he says, “the nullification of our will is greater than any contemplation we could ever have of God, כי ביטול הוא למעלה מהמחשבה”. After someone authentically experiences this negation, he’s left with an imprint of Hashem’s infinite light. That imprint is the fear of God. That fear is the purpose of creation. The Tikkunei Zohar scrambles the letters of the first word in the Torah, בראשית, to read as ירא בשת, fear and shame, because Hashem’s desire in this world is to be the King. His ultimate ambition is to have His kingdom of kindness spread throughout the world, bar-none. Those who are familiar with basic Kabbalah understand that Malchus (Hashem’s Kingship) is the final of the 10 emanations and symbolizes the doing and action of all the other emanations.
I think this is why in our time fear is so detested. Christianity basically stole all the lovey-doveyness of Judaism and deleted all the fear of Heaven. The same is true with Reform Judaism and all the new-age religions. Nobody wants to be told what to do anymore. Everyone thinks they know best now, and it’s not fashionable anymore to bear the yoke of Heaven. I struggle with this too. I am a cool guy. Being cool means to have no cares. It means you don’t have to answer to anybody because you think for yourself. When I learn the laws of Halacha, I’m overcome with feelings of ‘don’t tell me what to do’. I don’t want a boss. I even find that when I associate with more secular Jews, even those thirsty for more inspiration, I too much shy away from teaching fear of God. I am afraid to admit that I fear. And it makes sense that this is a struggle in these last minutes before Moshiach. Amazingly, Moshiach is the one with the task to make the whole world fear God. Sounds impossible but ‘והריחו ביראת ה (Isaiah 11), his fear of God will be phenomenally contagious. We need to pray for fear of Heaven. We need to pray to allow ourselves to negate our own ego and accept His dominion. Don’t be afraid to fear!
כי ביטול הוא למעלה מהמחשבה