Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16 )
GOOD MORNING! One of the 6 Constant Mitzvot -- commandments that are incumbent upon us at all times -- is to fear God. I think most people find this repugnant. Love God (also one of 6 Constant Mitzvot), yes. Fear God? No thank you!
Why do people dislike fear? Fear can be debilitating, causing one to be paralyzed from acting. It can be painful. Many fears are not real and need to be faced and conquered. However, there are real things to fear both physically and spiritually -- and consequences for not fearing them.
Love and fear provide distinct motivations in different situations.
We love our children. We remember their birthdays. We buy them presents. We go to great sacrifices for their well-being.
We (some of us) fear our boss. We won't be late. We won't displease him. We'll make sure our work is done fully and accurately to avoid his wrath.
Love drives us to do the positive. Fear causes us to refrain from doing the negative. Love of God inspires us to fulfill the positive commandments. Fear of God impels us to not transgress commandments.
The Torah is comprised of 613 commandments (yes, 613 ... not just the 10 of Cecil B. DeMille). There are 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments. All of the commandments of the Almighty are to help us reach our potential as human beings -- spiritually, morally, inter-personally, communally. The Hebrew word "Torah" translates as "instructions". And the Torah is often referred to as "Toras Chaim" -- Instructions for Life. It is our handbook for this world (as well as achieving the next world, the World to Come!).
God commanded us to fulfill His mitzvot for our good. There are consequences to our actions.
What is the source in the Torah for the commandment to Fear God? In Deuteronomy 10:20, the Torah tells us, "The Lord, your God you shall fear..." Imagine if you thought of stealing an apple, but focused on God commanding you not to steal! It would certainly upgrade a lot of business dealings!
The Hebrew word for "fear" is "yir'ah." The root of the word "yir'ah" is related to the same root of the Hebrew word "lir'ote" which means "to see." The concept is simple. The essence of fear is to see the consequences. Why does a person fear? He foresees the possible consequences.
If a person loves hiking and is walking on a very narrow path along the edge of a mountain with a sheer drop of 10,000 feet, should he be concerned about the consequences? Would he be better off blindfolded so that he won't see the precipitous drop which so inspires fear? There is a time to embrace fear for one's benefit.
The goal of life is to live and to grow in reality. If there is something to be feared, then fear it. If you can avoid the situation or deal with it, then all the better. However, to blithely ignore what might cause you harm is not living in or dealing with reality.
There is a second aspect of the commandment to Fear God. An aspect of "fear" is "awe" -- to see the awesome power, love and concern that the Almighty has for us, His creation. When one sees the snow-covered Alps or a sunset from the beach of a Hawaiian island, he is often filled with this sense of existential oneness, awesomeness.
The Sages teach us in the Talmud that to serve God out of fear is "avodah garuah" -- a low class of service. Ultimate service of God and relationship with God should be out of love of God -- appreciation for all of the gifts the Almighty has given us -- life, a beautiful world, sustenance, free will, the Torah! It's your pleasure! However, we must utilize both love and fear to reach our ultimate potential!
Torah Portion of the Week
Bo,Exodus 10:1 -13:16
This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one's first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer: "With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes (tefillin), for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt." (Ex. 13:15)
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding the Pesach offering:
"Neither shall you break a bone of it" (Exodus 12:46).
What is the Torah coming to teach us about life from this commandment?
On Passover night as we sit at the Seder we are to envision ourselves as going out of Egypt and becoming free people. At the Seder, we are kings and queens; we dress royally, we act royally, we eat royally. Royal people do not break bones to suck out the marrow. Poor, downtrodden people must suck the bones to draw out all of the nourishment possible.
The outward action brings the inner appreciation. If you want to be free, act free. If you want to be royal, act royally. Likewise, if you want to be kind or to be charitable, then act that way Eventually, your personality will be shaped by your actions. Life and growth are a process of deciding and then consistently acting in line with your decision. Decide and you can be!
CANDLE LIGHTING - February 3
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:44 - Hong Kong 5:55 - Honolulu 6:05
J'Burg 6:41 - London 4:36 - Los Angeles 5:08
Melbourne 8:13 - Mexico City 6:13 - Miami 5:48
New York 4:58 - Singapore 7:02 - Toronto 5:14
Fear is the ultimate reality check