Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  The Living Law
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Miketz

Yiras Shomayim: The G-d-fearer

The Mitzvah:

Yiras shamayim, Fear of [G-d in] Heaven is one of the essentials of Jewish living (Deuteronomy 8:6) and one of the six constant commandments that a Jew is able to be performed at every moment in his life.

Yosef freed his brothers from prison and gave them instructions with the assurance “Do this and live; for I fear G-d” (Bereishis 42:14). With this, Yosef informed them that he was not an idol-worship but was a believer in G-d and was a G-d-fearing person.

What is the significance of whether man fears G-d? Why should “fear of G- d” be used in man’s definition of self? And if so essential, what then, are the components to this heavenly fear?

Man only has jurisdiction over his free will – nothing more and nothing less. “The only thing G-d has [from man] in this world is yiras shamayim” (Shabbos 31a-31b). “Everything [in this world] is in the hands of Heaven – except for the fear of Heaven” (Berachos 33b).

Some fears in life are innate. But, quite surprisingly, fear of G-d is not – meaning that awareness of G-d’s Omnipotence is no guarantee that a person will automatically take this to heart and act accordingly. Precisely because yiras shamayim is the key to exercising man’s free will it is excluded from within man, unless and until he internalizes this within himself. Its acquisition is dependent upon the individual.

The burning question is: will he incorporate this “G-d-fearing element” into his existence? Where acquired and rooted within his psyche, is opens up the path to attain the true reward of Torah and mitzvah observance. It anchors his life to that of mitzvah observance, to serve G-d and distance himself from sin (Rav Yitzchak Blazer, Mamar Shaarei Ohr 2-3). Being “G-d- fearing” is the stepping-stone to mitzvah observance. “The sum of the matter …fear G-d and keep his commandments” (Koheles 12:13).

Without it, there is nothing. With it, man has everything.

This is to impact upon every aspect of the person’s existence. Such fear typically takes on two forms.

The first level of such fear is Yiras Ha’onesh, “fear of the [divine] punishment” for transgressing G-d’s command Who knows man’s every action. But the higher, second level is Yiras Haroi’mimus, “fear and awe of [G- d’s] Exaltedness”. It is not awe of retribution that deters him from sin but the trepidation that an iniquity damages his relationship with the Infinite, Omnipotent Creator. Accordingly, the individual is to avoid anything that might bring him into conflict from his dedication to bring glory to his Creator (Mesillas Yeshorim Ch.24).

This philosophy indelibly takes over and molds his entire perspective on life – to pursuing a life dedicated to serving G-d. It underpins morality and his vision of life. So the worse indictment of a society is the condemnation that it is “not G-d-fearing” as in Avraham’s stinging rebuke of Avimelech and the Pelishtim (Bereishis 20:11). No meaningful moral restraints exist in a society where fear of G-d is absent. Appropriately, the description of Amalek, the Jewish nation’s nemesis, is “the one who did not fear G-d” (Devarim 25:18).

Yosef’s fear was apparent from not succumbing to the seductive advances of Potiphar’s wife. The highest accolade, as stressed by Yosef, is to be called “G-d-fearing” as the angel told Avraham after the supreme test of the Binding of Yitzchak (Bereishis 22:12). The “woman of valor” is not praised for her grace or beauty but for her fear of G-d (Mishlei 31:30).

For a Jew, to be considered a yarei shamayim, a G-d-fearer, is therefore the highest badge of honor one can hold.


Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene and Torah.org.


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

Free Time
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

'Moment'ary Blunders
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

No Fear, No Fair
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764

> Noach Did Not Become Wicked, He Just Became Plain
- 5768

Can You Enjoy While Others Lack?
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

Intellectual Beliefs
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Roots of Evil
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

Ark D'triumph
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5758

Sins Committed In Private Ultimately Lead To a Violent Society
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

ArtScroll

People In Stone Houses Shouldn
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5773

Not Better or Worse, Just Different
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

The Day Falsehood Married Destruction
Shlomo Katz - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

To Share in the Pain of Others
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

The Ideal Way of Life
Shlomo Katz - 5768

Window to the World
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5762

The Perfect Storm
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765



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