As we creep closer and closer to Rosh Hashana… over the halfway mark… we are looking, searching, for some formula which will pull us out of the quicksand of habit, the morass of the status quo. True, there is no quick fix for easy change, but perhaps there is something that can jolt us into real renewal. The shofar I am hearing every morning doesn't quite seem to be doing the trick. I guess I'm hearing it, but not listening to it. I wonder if it's a sound of silence to me…
Perhaps… perhaps – internalizing fear of Hashem! Something to "keep me honest, " keep me at a "baseline" of behavior, keep me from thinking or acting or living as if I will not really have to give an accounting, an explanation, a rationale… someday, to Somebody…
The Mesilas Yesharim talks of level one fear of Hashem – fear of punishment. Low-level, he says, almost childish(would that we be that child!).
Level two – awe, even embarrasement, at the idea of negating the will of the Almighty. The question is, how can we connect to this abstract? Let's peek into the Rambam, who exhorts us to examine the wonders of creation (and this includes the entire gamut of the physical world, biology, the " laws" of physics, of chemistry, astronomy, of "nature," of all of the natural world – and thus, the Rambam continues, when a person does so, he realizes Hashem's wondrous creations and handiwork, and sees the tremendous wisdom and complexity which is limitless and boundless – a person immediately is struck with an immense love for Hashem, and a desire to know Hashem, the Creator of all the cosmos, from the quark to the Milky Way and beyond; and, while contemplating this, the person steps back, as it were, and is awe-struck, realizing that s/he is but an inferior creation, lowly and helpless, standing with the puny intelligience that we have before the All-Knowing, omniscient, Hashem.
This, I would think, is a way to develop the "second-level" yiras Hashem… by studying Creation and its wonders, by seeing how the most amazing complexities all "come together" to work; one is awestruck, and feels small and insignificant as a creation of this Almighty Power.
(We actually did this in our shul, BTYA, for many months.This was done upon the instructions of the Chovos Halevavos, who wrote about these subject matters over one thousand years ago (!), based on the science of his time – thus, Sha'ar Habechinah, the obligation one has to examine our wondrous universe (and others?) and, in the Chovos Halevavos's system, develop an immense appreciation and hakaras hatov to the Ribbono Shel Olom. And so in our daily Chovos Halevavos shiur (at the shul, 9 p.m. daily), we, at that time, devoted five minutes to an "updated" Sha'ar Habechinah, where we prepared and talked about everything in our amazing 5770 beriah – history, science, laws of "nature," anything and everything relating to mah gadlu ma'asecho Hashem, and mah rabu ma'asecho Hashem (we will bli neder explore the difference between those two statements one day).
And, Rabbosai – and ladies – it works! Five minutes a day, but day after day, you will develop the Rambam's ahava, and you then almost literally change to a feeling of smallness and inconsequence – and a subsequent palpable – yes, fear. Second level fear, that is – fear, awe, reverence, worship, intimidation, and enormous wonder. And then, as if by magic, a personal encounter with humility, meekness, and self-abnegation (bitul ) to the Creator of all, the Melech Ha'olom. And a definite determination and sense of actual impossibility to abrogate and oppose His will. And you say – so that's what the Rambam, and the Mesilas Yesharim, were talking about!
(We will skip over the third-level yiras Hashem of the Mesilas Yesharim, which is a kind of lifestlye of proactiveness in yirah – anticipating, being somewhat apprehensive and constantly "on –guard" lest sin occur. Not reactionary, but energetic and even eager to prevent sin.This is Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu's putting a muzzle on their camels, lest they eat from someone's field. Maybe. Conceivably. Perhaps. This is taking steps before it is too late, making a personal geder, as it were, to hinder and obviate violations of Hashem's will. This is a topic in and of itself, which we will one day bli neder retun to.
Okay, Rabbi – how does the average fellow or lady do what you described, or even come close? We're not about to crack open science books and history books, studying Hashem's manifestation and presence in the beri'ah. (Why not? The Rambam says to do so! Let me try out a word I have learned here in Israel – kachah!)
There is a way!I can suggest a way to make appreciation for the bri'ah real enough, possible enough, doable enough that a person will then use that as a springboard for yir'as Hashem.And just in time for Rosh Hashanah, the New Year.
The Gemara in Menachos (43B) states that a person is obligated to say 100 brachos every day. This halachah is codified in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 46:3. There are various explanations and interpretations regarding this halacha. What I find most facinating is its source, a remez (a hint) in a posuk in the Torah (Devarim 10:12) – "And now, Yisroel (Moshe speaking to the Nation), what does Hashem require of you but to fear Hashem…"- a possuk that the Gemara uses in other contexts to teach the rudiments and essentiality of yir'as Hashem (see Brachos 33B; Shabbos 31B). And this very posuk is used as the source of the 100 brachos obligation.The Maharsha in Menachos explains that the 100-brachos rule is the way Chazal saw as making achievable by everyone the goal of yir'as Hashem – by making 100 brachos every day! This is actually echoed by the Rambam who writes in Hilchos Brachos 1:4 that the reciting of brachos makes one regularly cognizant of Hakodosh Baruch Hu, and leads to fear of Hashem!!
How's that? Exactly the way we have explained it! When you make a brachah with kavana, (which immediately upon reading this article you will start doing), thinking about what you are saying; appreciating, acknowledging, and understanding the multi-layered world of almost infinite intricacy, thanking Hashem for providing it – then, of course, as the Rambam says: You become awe-struck, realizing that you are a totally dependant creature, lowly and helpless, and so utterly vulnerable and relying on Hashem.
Work on 100 brachos..work on kavana. Work on the feeling of total subservience and gratitude – and develop the greatest shmirah that will change your lie – yir'as Hashem
Concluding article next week, im yirtzeh Hashem.
On Wednesday Sep't 1, eve of 23 Elul, Rav Yechiel Spira is returning to RBS, to give a presentation of his report of over 70 food-selling establishments in RBS/BS. It will take place in Ulam Shabsai, at Beis Tefillah, corner Refa'im and Luz, at 8:30 p.m. (suggested donation – 10 NIS).After the lecture, there will be questions taken, and answered.
Afterwards, the first-time ever RBS/BS Kashrus guide, produced by Rav Yechiel, as commissioned by Beis Tefillah, will be available for sale. Be there, and become a knowledgeable kosher consumer!