The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Av 21, 5768/August 22,2008

"...HaShem your G-d is in the midst of you, a G-d great and awesome."
(Deuteronomy 7:21)

The Torah reading of Eikev, (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25), deals at great length with fear. Concerning fear, today modern scientists confirm what Rebbi Nachman said over two hundred years ago: fear is genetically hard-wired into the human psyche. It is part of our human nature. One who claims utter fearlessness is either a liar or a fool. The issue which both Rebbi Nachman and parashat Eikev discuss is how to direct our fear. We are told:

"If you will say in your heart: 'These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?' you will not be afraid of them; remember well what HaShem your G-d did to Pharaoh, and to all of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 7:17-18) Soon after we are instructed:

"And now, Israel, what does HaShem your G-d require of you, but to fear HaShem your G-d, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with your soul; to keep for your good the commandments of HaShem, and His statutes, which I command you this day?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

The earlier verse seems to be a tall order indeed. Not to fear our enemies? But they are numerous and they are well armed and their hatred for us is seemingly implacable? What is this commandment if not a call for reckless bravado? And how exactly do we rid ourselves of our fears in light of the explosive circumstances in which we find ourselves? On the other hand, fearing G-d, at first glance, appears magnificently easy to fulfill. A simple internal statement of intent should suffice. And certainly believing in G-d should imply fearing Him.

Yet G-d demands the exact opposite of us. We are to recalibrate how we measure fear, and relearn how we measure up to fear by redirecting our fear to where it serves ourselves and G-d best. To fear G-d is much more than a well intended mental memo. To fear G-d means to be aware of His presence in every moment. It means to be aware that His light surrounds us. And it means to be aware that the light of G-d is within us. But the way in which we manifest this fear in a manner befitting us as G-d's partners in the perfection of creation, is by utilizing this fear, this recognition of G-d's omnipresence to inform all that we do. This is the intention of the instruction: "...fear HaShem your G-d, to walk in all His ways... to keep for your good the commandments of HaShem, and His statutes." (ibid) Fear, awe, becomes for us, not an emotion to run away from or to give in to, but a source of positive spiritual energy which enervates and enables us to see G-d's presence in every deed we do, from the greatest to the least. Every action that we initiate can become a testimony to His presence in this world. This type of fear binds us to G-d, enabling us "to walk in all His ways." (ibid)

Once we have converted our natural capacity for fear into a positive and integral component of our spiritual being and our every action, we will discover that fear can no longer be subject to the mercy of outside forces which seek to sunder us from Him, plunging us into darkness. Fear, it turns out, unchecked and unmastered, will lead us ultimately into the service of those whose aim is ridding this world of G-d's presence. However, by taking fear upon us as a positive commandment, we discover that the true power of fear is to lead us toward G-d.

As Rebbe Nachman concluded: Each individual is granted a certain capacity to fear in his life. One cannot both fear G-d and fear His enemies. By mustering all our fear to the service of G-d, we banish our fear of others.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven talk about fear and standing before G-d, even when we prepare our morning cup of coffee.

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2