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Love from Fear

Love from Fear

Every person is connected to the Creator. There is much we can learn about this connection by how we are to fear G-d and how we are to love G-d.

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When Love Grows from Fear
By Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort
"Perhaps you will say in your heart, 'These nations are more numerous than I: how will I be able to drive them out?' Do not fear them. You shall remember what the L-rd, your G‑d, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt"--Deuteronomy 7:17-18.
Rabbis are constantly teaching anyone who will listen (and even some who try not to) that the words of the Torah are eternal. The dictates are just as true now as on the day they were given. Our Torah is described as the Torah of Truth. Truth remains constant; it does not change. Just as in the days that the Jews were poised to enter and conquer the Holy Land they were commanded to disregard the superior numbers enjoyed by the enemies of our nation, so too in our times. Just as then the Jews were implored in the strongest possible terms "Do not fear them!" So too in our days must we remove the fear from our hearts and act with strength and courage.
But what of this powerful emotion called fear? What part does it play in the Jew's life? Actually fear has a central place in our service of G‑d, and as we will see serves as a stepping stone to true love of our Creator. Our portion states "Now Israel, what does the L-rd, your G‑d, ask of you? Only to fear the L-rd, your G‑d, to go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve the L-rd, your G‑d, with all your heart and with all your soul." Later still our portion reads "The L-rd, your G‑d, you shall fear, Him you shall serve..."
For centuries Jews have stated in high praise of one another, "He is a true G‑d-fearing Jew." And yet today in many circles such praise would be construed as being almost backward, or at the very least awkward. Many spirited debates have been held on the necessity of fearing the Almighty. Many feel that only love is needed, and associate fear as a negative emotion in relation to G‑d.
Our portion indicates that the opposite is true. If we study the issue we learn that there is a progression regarding one's emotional attachment to the Creator. According to our Sages the most basic emotion is fear, and they elaborate that this means fear of punishment. This same theme is echoed in the Ethics of Our Fathers where the Mishnah reminds us not to lose faith in the concept of Divine Justice (that we will be held accountable for our actions).
If we parallel our spiritual service with our growth as human beings we see the same holds true in raising a child. When a parent imparts standards of behavior upon a child, he or she starts by making clear that there will be negative consequences if the child acts out in a negative manner. While love is of course given in copious amounts, the parent cannot expect the young child to modify his behavior based only on love. It may be argued that a young child does not even feel love until some maturation has occurred. This is because love is a more complex emotion that comes when the intellect has evolved to some degree, while fear is more instinctual.
A Jew starts out with this baseline fear of punishment, which leads to love; a type of love that stems from our appreciation for all that G‑d gives us. We then grow even further and develop a sense of awe in relationship to G‑d. Awe is an outgrowth of the previously attained levels. Because we are in awe of G‑d our behavior is modified yet further, so that every step we take and regardless of our surroundings we are cognizant of the G‑dliness which envelops us, leading us to higher plateaus. Finally we reach the highest emotional level, where we love G‑d to such a degree that we do all in our power whenever we can for Him, simply because we desperately desire to please Him.
The steps in the person's emotional progression are available for any who chooses to access them. May we be successful in our emotional ascent towards the heights of true love and fear of our G‑d!
Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort is director of Chabad at La Costa and a scholar on AskMoses.com. Rabbi Eilfort welcomes readers comments and questions and may be reached via e-mail at rabbiE@chabadatlacosta.com.
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