The Fear of Heaven
As this weekly series rolls on, it is important that we don’t become complacent with the wonderful things that YHWH is revealing to us as we study the Psalms, so it is time to stop and reflect on some of the key teachings that we have learned. One of the most important and perhaps the most overlooked subjects is the fear of Heaven. We must learn this principle very well, live by it and teach others to do so. I mean it.
Messiah Yahshua’s atoning blood can only be applied if one is truly penitent over his past sins and transgressions. But what about tomorrow, next week, next month and next year? A person, after having repented, is almost guaranteed to sin again. So what is the solution?
A primary lesson which David taught at every opportunity was the importance of, fear of Heaven, for, as the Sages taught (Avos 3:11), anyone whose fear of sin takes priority over his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. Therefore, David said: “Go, O sons, heed me, the fear of YHWH I will teach you” (Psalms 34:12)
. And what did David teach them? “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of YHWH” (Psalms 111:10
To David, the Elohim fearing man represents the paragon of virtue, so it is his praises that David sang throughout his Book of Psalms. He even dedicated an entire chapter to the praises of this man. It begins with the verse: “Halleluyah! Praiseworthy is the man who fears YHWH, who intensely desires His commandments” (Psalms 112:1)
In the Torah itself we read of the primacy of fear of Heaven in the verse: “And now, Israel, what does YHWH your Elohim ask of you – only that you fear YHWH your Elohim” (Deuteronomy 10:12).
Mesillas Yesharim emphasizes that one must exert maximum effort to acquire a sense of genuine fear of Heaven and his main proof is from the words of David’s own son Solomon:
King Solomon stated: If you seek it out as you seek silver and search for it as you search for buried treasures – then will you comprehend the fear of YHWH (Proverbs 2:4-5)
. He does not say: “Then you will comprehend philosophy; then you will master astronomy; then you will understand medicine; then will grasp the meaning of the fine points of law.”
These pursuits, while commendable, are not the ultimate purpose of life. It is only comprehension of the fear of Elohim which truly warrants incessantly study and research.
Mesillas Yesharim suggests that one set aside a specific period of time in his daily schedule to contemplate a personal approach to the fear of Elohim. He also describes a process of acquiring fear of transgression (ch.25):
One should constantly make himself aware that the Divine Presence is found everywhere, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, carefully watches everyone and everything, great and small. Nothing is hidden from His eyes…When one truly lives with this awareness, he is filled with awe. He genuinely fears acting in a manner which is not in accordance with the wishes of the Almighty.
Throughout Psalms David clearly states the reward of the Elohim-fearing: Since they placed Elohim uppermost in their minds, they are uppermost in Elohim’s mind and merit the highest level of intense Divine province and protection.
“Behold, the eye of YHWH is on those who fear Him, upon those who await His kindness. To rescue their soul from death and to sustain them in famine” Psalms (33:18-19): “The angel of YHWH encamps around those who fear Him, and he rescues them” (Psalms 34:8).
“For as High as heaven is above the earth has His Kindness overwhelmed those who fear Him” (Psalms 102:11).
Those who truly fear Elohim make the fulfillment of Elohim’s will their highest priority and thus personify the words of the Mishnah (Avos 2:4): Treat His will as if it were your won will, so that He will treat your will as if it were His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He will nullify the will of others before your will. With this in mind David made a final promise to those who fear Elohim: “The will of those who fear Him He will do; and their cry He will hear, and save them” (Psalms 145:19).
“Teach me, YHWH, Your way, that I may travel in Your truth, unit my heart to fear Your Name” (Psalms 86:11). Fear of Heaven does not come naturally. It is a quality of character and a sense of awareness which one must strive for through study, meditation, and prayer. When David asked Elohim, Unit my heart to fear Your Name (Psalms 86:11), he meant that ordinarily our interests are scattered in many directions and we fail to concentrate on the one most important matter which should be the focus of our lives – the attainment of, fear of Heaven.
Rav Yitzchak Blazer, fondly known as Rav Itzele Peterburger, observes in his masterpiece Ohr Yisrael (Shaarei Ohr, ch. 2) that, by nature, men are easily frightened. Wherever man turns, he finds himself surrounded by either real or imaginary danger. He is afraid of crime and of competition; afraid of the future and the unknown. He fears failure, sickness, poverty, pain, and death. Indeed, the list has almost no end.
Thus, it is curious: If man is a being prone to fear, why does he not also live in awe and trepidation of the most powerful force in the world – the Omnipotent Elohim, Master of the Universe? But lo, in his daily life man seems not to take notice of his Creator at all! Even those who scrupulously follow the dictates of Torah and mitzvoth, as a whole, seem not overly concerned about sins they commit time and time again.
Rav Yitzchak Blazer explains that man’s lack of natural fear of Elohim is indeed unfathomable; yet this strange phenomenon is nonetheless the result of Elohim’s perfect design. The Creator Himself purposely plucked fear of Elohim from man’s heart so that humanity could enjoy its most precious privilege – the gift of free will. If a man was overwhelmed by a natural and instinctive dread of the Almighty, he would unthinkingly choose good. Evil would almost not be an option at all.
Thus the Divine decree, man does not fear Elohim instinctively. Yet man can acquire fear of Elohim intellectually. By actively seeking to recognize Elohim’s dominance over every phase of life, man slowly fills his heart with reverence and awe.
“If you seek it out as you seek silver and search for it as you search for buried treasures, then you will comprehend the fear of YHWH” (Proverbs 2:4-5).
From Tehillim Treasury by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer (2004 Edition) (Page 149 -154)