Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Eight Chapters

Chapter Eight (Part 5)

The fact that other than our fear of it, "everything (else) is in the hands of Heaven" does indeed bolster Rambam's argument for our free will. But let's first explain just what the fear of Heaven is all about.

First off, at a certain point in his writings Rambam proclaimed that fearing G-d "leads to wisdom" and that it's "even more precious than it", which is a phenomenally significant statement on his part, considering how much he valued wisdom.

But as to how we can cultivate this important trait, he disclosed elsewhere that we come to learn how to fear G-d by "fulfilling His mitzvot", which is to say by subjugating ourselves to His will and wishes. In fact, the Torah itself links the fear of G-d to the performance of mitzvot, as well as to free will, when it says in G-d's name, "O, that there was such a heart in them always! That they would fear Me (on their own) and observe all My mitzvot" (Deuteronomy 5:26).

But Rambam gets more specific about it somewhere else. He belittles the sort of simple, better said, primitive sort of fear of G-d that the less- sophisticated of us (whom he calls "ignoramuses") sometimes exhibit: the sort of emotion that leads them to be observant in order to avoid calamity or Divine retribution, or to dwell in Heaven after they pass on. He contends that doing that belittles the worship of G-d.

The sort of fear of Heaven he advocates at yet another point is the one a person comes to when he or she "contemplates the great wonders of G-d's handiworks and creations, and sees that they are the product of a (degree of) wisdom that is boundless and limitless", and he or she comes to "feel a great sense of awe and trepidation", and to realize "that he is a very humble and insignificant creation with barely a grain of intelligence compared to G-d". That's to say that Rambam encourages us to look upon things with G-d's profound being in mind, and to stand dumbfounded in His presence.

The point, though, is that this is in our hands alone; G-d doesn't grant us it. We're expected to foster it on our own.

So, what our sages were referring to when they said that "everything is in the hands of Heaven but the fear of Heaven" is the fact that there are indeed certain things that a person has no control over -- like "being tall or short, whether it will rain or be dry, whether the air will be foul or pure, and other such common occurrences" -- but not his or her own actions. For we have utmost control of the latter, which is Rambam's whole point.

As such, we're expected to take responsibility for all of our actions, and to strive for spiritual excellence.


Text Copyright 2007 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org


 


ARTICLES ON VAYIGASH AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

Of Fire and Money
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757

Yaakov's Descent to Egypt
Shlomo Katz - 5764

Chanukah
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Royal Conflict
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

Worms and Wagons
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

Good and Bad Company
Shlomo Katz - 5768

ArtScroll

"Your Servant, Our Father"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5775

Sadly Released from Prison
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Chanukah: Lights, Camera, Action!
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

O Chanukah, O Chanukah . . .
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

What Did Yosef Mean?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

Tightening the Hellenistic Screws: A History of Chanukah, Part I
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5774

> The Root of the Problem
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Miracles of Modesty
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5762

Don't Look A Gift-Donkey In The Mouth
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

First Things First
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5769



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