Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Ohr Yisrael: R’ Salanter’s Letters (9)

This short yet pithy letter addresses a fundamental issue in our inner lives: whether we fear G-d or not. For while any of us have accepted the idea loving G-d and appreciating His presence in our lives, most have avoided the fear of Him (or have concentrated on the more readily acceptable idea of being in awe of Him, which the Hebrew term for fear, yirah, also implies).

But honest to the bone as he always was, R’ Salanter makes the point here that we’re meant to literally fear G-d. He’ll define the term for us here and tell us how to acquire it.

Why are we asked to “fear” Him, in fact? Wouldn’t loving, appreciating, honoring, and accepting G-d’s presence do? R’ Salanter offers that fearing G-d holds a special power: it “constrains the forces of (illicit) desires”. That is, it’s very successful at holding back thoughts we have to do one wrongful thing or another, and at placing things in perspective. So, while loving G-d and the like is holy and precious, it often doesn’t have that ability. In any event, since we’re taught that G-d assesses everything we do and has us suffer the consequences of our misdeeds, we’d obviously do well to foster the fear of Him if we’re to avoid sinning.

According to R’ Salanter, fearing G-d then comes down to fearing His ability to have us suffer those consequences. But simply knowing about those consequences won’t do the trick, R’ Salanter counseled us. Only by “disturbing the soul”, as he put it -- awakening and troubling it -- can one instigate it to take the reality of retribution to heart. “Only expanding upon” one’s conscious knowledge of retribution “through vivid imaginings and fervent expression” of its reality works (see R’ Salanter’s Innovations 4).

For that along with gaining more and more knowledge about the dynamics involved, and reflecting upon one’s own situation will “clear the stony field of (our) hearts”, as he put it, and allow us to better ourselves.


 

Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org

Rabbi Feldman's new book, Bachya Ibn Pakuda's The Duties of the Heart, is now available! Order Now


 
Sell Chometz Online


ARTICLES ON TZAV AND PESACH:

View Complete List

Clean Up Your Mess
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757

How Do We Pray?
Shlomo Katz - 5775

There's One in Every Generation
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Exodus - What Does it Mean to Be Free?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5765

Service Call
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5773

A Well-Red Parshah
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

ArtScroll

Pesach Answers - Chad Gadya
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

A Low-Key Miracle
Shlomo Katz - 5767

Elevated by Divine Command
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5770

> Last Days of Pesach
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

The Great Shabbos
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5768

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Searching for the Chametz Within
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Parshas Acharei Mos and Pesach
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5774

The Eternal Light
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

Aharon Was Hesitant To Spend Money On Koban Olah, So Hashem Charged It
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information