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


 






ARTICLES ON KI SEITZEI AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

Parshas Ki Seitzei
Shlomo Katz - 5770

Happy New Yira
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

The Blessings We All Hope For
Rabbi Label Lam - 5773

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Wordless Prayers
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5771

Overlook It When You've Been Wronged
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

The Healer Is On-Call
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5773

> Tough Love
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5767

Thanks to Egypt
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760

Benefiting from the Benefit of the Doubt
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

...And It's All Small Stuff
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5760

Rosh Hashana and the Kiss of Life
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

In A Theatre Near You
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

ArtScroll

Rising Above It All
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762

That Ancient Memory
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

Priorities
Rabbi Chaim Flom - 5767

Unusual Spelling
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762



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