Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Guest Posting From Chabakuk Elisha: A Thought From Shabbos Shelach

This past Shabbos was especially warm in New York. As to the physical warmth, I always thank G-d for giving man the ability to invent air conditioning in recent history (and making it fairly affordable). As to the spiritual warmth, I noticed a few words that are enlightening for those of us (especially me) who still remain in the dark.

In Parshas Shelach, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim quoted his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov:

"External fears and worries come to a person in order to awaken and remind him to connect to his true inner fear of G-d. When one employs his fear of Heaven, all external and mundane fears are nullified."

To illustrate the point, I remember a story of a certain wealthy chossid of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. This chossid was a sincere, learned and refined man, and he was also a successful and wealthy businessman. Unfortunately, he had fallen on hard times and was in dire straits so he came to the Rebbe to ask for help.

After describing the burden and circumstances with which he was faced, the Alter Rebbe responded:

"You are telling me what you need from G-d, but how about what G-d needs from you?"

To this, the chossid immediately fainted.

Upon awaking, he asked for, and received, a schedule of activities to follow, from his Rebbe, and in a short time was restored to his former status.

To be sure, when we are beset with seemingly overwhelming difficulties, it is no simple task to stay calm and look past them with ease. But this seems to be the message for us - look within, and therein lays the solution. Our struggles are a symptom, let‘s address the problem.


At June 28, 2005 at 1:01:00 PM EDT, Blogger CJ Srullowitz said...

What is often left out, lulei demistafina, in our understanding of "Hakol biyidei Shomayim chutz meiyiras Shomayim" is that Yiras Shomayim is exclusive--if you fear Heaven you fear nothing else.

The best ananlogy is to someone running away from a mugger. If he is afraid the mugger will shoot him, he will run through traffic to escape. He's not afraid of being hit by a car because he is MORE afraid of the gun. The fear is exclusive.

At June 28, 2005 at 5:32:00 PM EDT, Blogger TRK said...

Just wanna post on the "where is G-d" thing if I may. I believe it was Rebbe Nachman who beautifully said "Ayeh Makom Kevodo" - the ayeh, the place of the question, that is makom kevodo, the place of G-d. Stunning. Always remained with me.


At June 28, 2005 at 6:09:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi's Kid --
That is surely true on one level!
However, The Kotzker quote that you refer to is a very powerful one, because it highlights how G-d gives us the power to separate ourselves, so-to-speak, from G-d; Chazal tell us that ego chases G-d away, as G-d says "He and I cannot reside together."

At June 28, 2005 at 6:09:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cloo -

Indeed, that is a good analogy!

Honestly, I don't like the word "fear." There is a problem with translations in general, since the word is an English one, and is not the same as the Hebrew "Yira."
When we hear the word "fear," I think we often associate it with a horrific event... (a mugging, animal attack, crime,etc.) - but "Yira" has a much broader definition (awe,etc). I think that the Hebrew word "Pachad" seems to be closer to the English word "Fear," but I'm not a linguist. When we say Yiras Hashem, I think it means an awesome bittul.

For example, should we not be afraid of a speeding car?
I'm not sure...
But, I think that the concept is:
We don't worry about the outcome of things out of our control, since everything is in G-d's hands.
Also, just as we would be worried about getting caught speeding, or parking illegally - and we surely wouldn't do these things in from of a police officer - so too (and even more so), we should constantly be "afraid" to act improperly before G-d.
Any thoughts?

At June 29, 2005 at 1:19:00 PM EDT, Blogger CJ Srullowitz said...

Well Yiras Hacheit, lulei demistafina, is more fear-based, while Yiras Haromemus is more awe-based.

At June 29, 2005 at 3:15:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. (Although we must be clear that yiras hacheit - fear of sin - does not include yiras haonesh - fear of punishment.) But is fear the right word? I guess that my associations with the word "fear" makes me uncomfortable using it - but I don't know if there is a better word. Yiras hacheit means we want to be extra careful not to sin, and that we are "afraid" to cause ourselves to be distanced from G-d, so the word fear is not wrong - but I think it lends itself to misunderstanding in a sense.

Interestingly, a funny thing happened to me yesterday:

I was cleaning up my 10 year old daughter's room (she is away at camp now), and among the things I was going through, I came across school-work that she no longer needs.
Among the papers that I was throwing away, I noticed a sheet where she was supposed to write about herself. Here are a couple of the questions asked, and the answers that she gave:

Q: What do you wish for?
A: Moshiach, bracelets, ... (I cant remember the third one)

Q: What are your fears?
A: Hashem, darkness & nightmares

This second Q/A was very interesting to me. She has equated G-d with darkness & nightmares as things to be afraid of. Obviously, this is a result of hearing about Yiras Shamayim-Fear of Heaven... I liked her answer, but I don't know if G-d is supposed to be scary.

But, what I am wondering is, when we say not to be afraid of anything other than G-d, I don't know if that means we should expect to be unafraid of danger. Yaakov Avinu was afraid of his brother Eisav - because he might not have been worthy - due to sin - for G-d's protection. Doesn't that mean that fear of danger is somewhat legitimate?

At June 26, 2006 at 7:26:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece.
One little note: I always though the Alter Rebbe actually said something like
און צו וואס דארף מען דיר האבן ...
Which translates as "and what are you needed for?" Such words heard from one's Rebbe can indeed cause a man to faint… (Also G-d does not need anything and it’s unimaginable that the AR would actually say the words "G-d needs". Remember, he couldn’t even bring himself to fully spell the word אצילות ).

At June 27, 2006 at 9:42:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes - Thanks for the correction!

At January 3, 2007 at 10:00:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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