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 LECH LECHA:

View Complete List

Ask for Spiritual Wealth
Shlomo Katz - 5762

The Mind's Eye
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

The Dawn of a New Era
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

ArtScroll

I Lift My Hands
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5762

Jews vs. Judaism
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5763

The Wandering Jew
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Avraham Foreshadowed Self-Sacrifice To Make Aliyah
- 5768

Bris Milah: Mark of Distinction
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5766

Don't Doubt My G-d
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5775

> Emunah: Keeping the Faith
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

A Fuzzy Picture
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

A "Sneak Preview" of History
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Lech Lecha Test Rates Higher Than The Ur Kasdim Test
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

The Treaty
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5773

Outsiders
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756

Connoisseur's Delight
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 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