The Path of the Just
Chapter 24 (Part 3)
The second kind of fear we’re to strive for isn’t “fear” so much as a sense
of awe, which Ramchal refers to as “a reverence for G-d's Grandeur”. It
comes down to being so very aware of G-d’s presence in your life that you’re
dumbstruck by His nearness and deep effect upon you that your actions are
washed, dried, and folded through and through with it.
So wholly captivated and undone by G-d’s presence would such a person be
that he or she wouldn’t dare sin. “After all,” as Ramchal puts it, “how
would it even occur” to such an individual “to do something that runs
counter to G-d's will”, knowing what he knows and sensing G-d’s presence as
he does? Ramchal acknowledges, though, that “this sort of fear (or
reverence) isn’t easy to come to”, since it only occurs to someone who
regularly engages in “contemplation of the Grandeur of G-d” in this world,
which few of us do.
In any event, such an individual “would be abashed (in the presence of) and
would tremble when standing before, praying to, and serving his Maker”, for
But Ramchal doesn’t mean to advocate for some abstract sense of G-d’s
presence that only affects a person from time to time -- he’s depicting the
need for us to acquire what he terms “the fear of sin”, or a sort of
“applied awe”, as we might put it. It comes down to your “constantly fearing
and worrying about the fact that your actions might contain a smidgen of
transgression, or that there might be some small or even some large thing
therein that simply isn’t fitting for the glory and grandeur of G-d”.
The difference between this sort of “applied fear” and the abstract
reverence for G-d's Grandeur is that while the latter “applies to when
you’re either actually doing something, you’re in the midst of serving G-d,
or you’re about to possibly sin”, G-d forbid, fear of sin would be more
deeply felt. Of course one should “be abashed and ashamed, should shake and
shiver for the loftiness of G-d's honor,” and not lapse into sin. But there
needs to be more, as we’ll see.