Yirat Shamayim (or Yiras Shamayim, if you please.)

Hashem is really cool. He ROCKS. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. He is really awesome. Which brings us to…yirat shamayim.

For years, I thought to myself. I love Hashem, He does all these amazing things for me, and we’re tight, I feel Him in my daily life, moment to moment. He’s there. Because we’re so chummy, I figured that my relationship to Him is unbalanced, too much with the ahava and not enough with the yirah. So I davened for more yirah, I asked for brachot for yirah, and years down the line, nothing has changed. And I JUST realized why. (It’s creepy.)

Over the years I have learned what yirah really means. It doesn’t mean quaking in our boots, it means appreciating what Hashem does for us and having an internalized sense of awe. When I speak to amazingTorah teachers, people like Rabbi Tatz, Rebbetzin Heller, etc., I get all meek and can’t get my words out because I’m like “WOAH, they’re amazing!” And this is kind of how I figured I should be relating to Hashem, that I should be less in the chummy mode and more in the Father/daughter mode, with more respect, etc. But I had it all wrong.

There are two modes of relationship here, but it’s not quite as I imagined. Really, it’s a 2 way channel. The yirah is Hashem’s showering his blessings upon us, and giving us things to be thankful for, and our appreciating it. This part, B”H, I have under my belt, completely internalized. But then comes PHASE 2, which is ahava, the giving component. It’s when we “give” of ourselves to Hashem, the self sacrafices we are expected to make, like getting up and going to daven instead of dilly dallying when we’re in the middle of something fun or otherwise engaging, like, for example, writing on our blogs.

EEk. There is work to be done.

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4 Responses to Yirat Shamayim (or Yiras Shamayim, if you please.)

  1. I got my hands on some private translations of some deep texts that I’m really not at the level to be reading – though the person who made the private translation told me that I was so I read them anyways. The conclusion I drew from the texts is this:

    There are two kinds of fear: fear of punishment and awe of HaShem’s greatness. Lower fear is both commanded and aided to be acquired. Higher Awe of HaShem means taking obligations and stringencies upon one’s self not because one is commanded to do so, but because one self-motivates oneselves to do so. The expression of higher Awe of HaShem is in fact in and of itself an act that is not commanded but is to be taken on through a person’s self-motivation. Brilliantly efficient, for if we were commanded to achieve higher awe of HaShem then it wouldn’t be fully our merit. Likewise if HaShem were to help us achieve it, even if it were not commanded, then it wouldn’t be fully our merit.
    We learn this from the word ‘shoel’ in verse Devarim 10:12 where it reads ‘…ma HaShem Elohecha shoel meimach ki im l’yirah et HeShem Elohecha…’ ‘…what does HaShem your G-d ASK from you but to fear HaShem your G-d….’
    Shoel is a request, not a commandment as the word ‘mitzvah’ or ‘chok’ would indicate. Fear of HaShem is entirely our task to perform. Indeed, it says in the Gemara ‘everything is in the hands of Heaven but the fear of Heaven’ (Brachot 33b).

    Try to wrap your head around that one… and let me know if you succeed ‘cus I’m still struggling with it personally.

  2. Doing this on the fly as I’m on my way out the door, but…
    In order to have something be “fully in our merit,” we need to choose it. That is, we have to have stood on the line between + and -, and chosen + (by definition, + and – are defined by where you are standing, consult Rabbi Tatz’s works for more on this one). This means that we need to be equally pulled in each direction, otherwise circumstances would dictate the outcome rather than our own choice. We all have souls that are drawn to good. The yetzer harah was put in place to balance things out, right?
    Part of why we can earn merit for our mitzvot is that they are commandments. When something is an obligation, we have an automatic yetzer harah against it.
    So if yirat shamayim is NOT a commandment, then, it seems to me, we can’t get the full merit on that one, which doesn’t really make sense.
    Also, if there are 2 concepts (ie fear and awe) then you need 2 words for it, hebrew wise. What have you got for me?

  3. The easier one first: It is stated in many different works that there are two kinds of fear. See Orachot Tzaddikim for one. Apparently it’s also mentioned in the commentaries to Berachot 33b though I haven’t looked yet to confirm what it says. It is alluded to in the Sefardi siddurim, in the Cavanot before mitzvot it says ‘we do this in Fear and Love, Love and Fear’ (or something like that), indicating the four levels of attachment to HaShem: fear of punishment, love of reword, love of His Essence and fear/awe of His Greatness.

    I remember hearing a lecture where Rabbi Tatz mentioned that *nods*, he was referring to before and after Sinai and to the difference between goyim and yiddim right?

    This secret document states that there are two ways of fulfilling the Torah: one is from the aspect of Malchut, the other from Memshalah. Acting because of Memshalah is doing what a person is duty bound to do because he was commanded to do so. Period. It means following the law because that’s the law and living a life ruled by reward and punishment (a level I’m hoping to one day attain – I can’t for the life of me acknowledge the fact that my mitzvot will be rewarded and my aveirot will be punished).
    Malchut is a higher level than the already lofty level of realizing HaShem is governor over the world. Malchut means performing mitzvot not because of reward or punishment, but because they recognize it is HaShem’s desire and they themselves want to do whatever The King desires with total acceptance.

    If we incorporate the idea that Rabbi Tatz presented we find three levels of mitzvah performance: Whimsical, Dutiful and Devotional. I have very often observed from the teachings of the Sages and Rabbis that the highest level looks very much like the lowest level, only it is somewhat deepened. I believe that this case is no exception. Upon completing the circle of Motivation a person goes from a low level of desire to a high level of desire; from a damaged desire to a perfected desire; from a selfish desire to divine desire.

    But the difference between these two levels is much clearer. It seems that Rabbi Tatz and this secret document are speaking about two completely different kinds of actions. Rabbi Tatz was refering to a written mitzvah like Tzeddakah or Tefillin. When it comes to mitzvot such as these, fulfilling them out of obligation is certainly much better than fulfilling them on a whim. What this text is refering to, however, are actions that are outside the realm of mitzvot and are thus beyond the bounds of reward and punishment. If it were within the realm of reward and punishment then it wouldn’t have used ‘Shoel’, it would have used another word such as ‘Mevakesh’. Shoel is a request, like asking for a favour in which the sole benefit belongs to the requester and not to the performer. So the text writes, higher Yirat HaShem is performing actions that are of benefit solely to HaShem and have no benefit to the individual whatsoever; They are requested and not commanded.

    The major expression of this, it seems, is with Chumrot; being machmir provides no benefit to an individual and in fact can be to his great detriment (as we have discussed earlier). But if a person were to truly tap into HaShem’s Ratzon and see what chumrot He desires without commanding, and then this person was to hold by these chumrot, then that is the highest level of devotion available.

    For the lowly ones (myself included) who can’t even wrap their heads around Memshalah performance, this level is beyond manifestation – which is one of the reasons I don’t think I’m ready to be reading it. It’s good to know it’s there though, that the tunnel keeps on going and the madregot ascend further still.

  4. Shemerolvitz says:

    Hashem is truly amazing, he eats well, exercises daily and and almost never cheats on his girlfriend.

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