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"Class, the subject of today's shiur (lecture) is yiras shomayim (the fear of heaven). Let us begin with the gemora (Berachos 33b) which quotes a verse from this week's parasha. Rebbe Chanina said, 'Everything is from heaven except for the fear of heaven, as the verse states, "Now, Yisrael, what does Hashem your G-d request from you? Only to fear Him" (Devarim 10:12).' Hashem is making a request from each and every member of Klal Yisrael. He would never ask us for something that we are not capable of giving Him. Therefore, when He requests that every Jew fear Him, it must be that we are all capable of yiras shomayim." "How can that be, Rebbe? People are born with different capabilities. Some are strong, some are weak. Some are rich, some are poor. How can they all fulfill the same requirement of yiras shomayim?"
"Excellent, Avi. Rashi addresses this issue. That is precisely the point of the gemora. All of a person's capabilities and gifts are from heaven. Hashem decrees whether he will be tall or short, poor or rich, wise or foolish, etc. However, his outcome as a tsaddik or rasha is entirely in the person's own hands. The Almighty places before him two paths, and he chooses for himself yiras shomayim. Therefore, Hashem is justified in requesting that we fear Him, because it is entirely in our own hands."
"Ahhh, I understand, Rebbe. However, that raises another question. The verse goes on to list a variety of things that Hashem requests from us. 'To go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. To observe the commandments of Hashem and His decrees, which I command thee this day, for your own benefit.' These requests are far more than yiras shomayim."
"That is a very astute observation, Chaim. Many meforshim address this point. Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch comments that 'going in all Hashem's ways and loving Him' are the result of yiras shomayim. Fear of Hashem leads a person to walk in His ways. He benefits and grows from this, as the verse states, '(The Torah's) ways are ways of pleasantness' (Mishlei 3:17). They fill a person's heart with richness and satisfaction. This brings him to love the One Who guides him along the beautiful path."
"That is so inspiring, Rebbe, however it still seems to contradict the gemora. Going in all of Hashem's ways, loving Him, serving Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, observing the commandments of Hashem and His decrees may comes as a result of yiras shomayim, however they are not yiras shomayim itself. Therefore, they are not in our hands. How can Hashem request them from us?"
"Avi, you are a very deep thinker. The Torah Temima answers your question. Firstly, he strengthens the question by adding many other requests that are made of a person who has yiras shomayim. He is expected to do good and not evil. He is kind, just, generous, and tsnuah (dignified). This is much more than simple fear of Hashem! Yet these other qualities come to a person who has yiras shomayim. Hashem assists those Jews who fear Him, giving them Siyata Di'Shmaya (Heavenly Assistance) to acquire good middos; a pure, refined soul. As the gemora states, 'One who comes to purify himself, (Hashem) helps him' (Yuma 39a)."
"We can have it all, Rebbe - all of the spiritual purity, wealth, and satisfaction that a person can wish for. We just need to take the first step - to fear Hashem."
"May you all succeed."
Kinderlach . . .
What is yiras shomayim? The Malbim defines it as "busha" - embarrassment. There are certain things that we are embarrassed to do in the presence of an important person. The Creator of the Universe is far more important than the most important person in the world. He is always with us, filling the whole world with His Presence. He sees everything that we do, hears everything that we say, and knows everything that we think. Therefore, we should always be embarrassed to do, say, or think anything that He would not approve of. That is yiras shomayim - placing Hashem before us always, and acting with great awe and respect in His presence. This is what the Almighty requests from us. When we fulfill His request, the rewards that He grants are astounding. He helps us to come very close to Him by following all of His mitzvos. Ultimately, we come to love Hashem with all of our hearts and souls. What spiritual wealth and satisfaction! The ultimate good!* Yiras shomayim!
"Did you hear about the terrible tragedy?"
"Something that was standing in this world for 123 years is no more."
"I'm almost afraid to ask."
"It was magnificent. Hundreds of thousands of man-hours of work went into this project. It was under construction day and night. No effort was spared."
"When was it finished?"
"It was never fully finished until its demise. It was always being constantly improved."
"You've really got my curiosity aroused. Why didn't I hear about this on the news? What was it? Please tell me."
"A tsaddik died. The Torah recounts the death of Aharon HaKohen in this week's parasha (Devarim 10:6)."
"What? The death of a tsaddik? What sort of a construction project is that? I thought that you were referring to a building, a bridge, or a tunnel."
"A tsaddik is a much bigger 'construction project' than any of those things. Do you know how many hours a tsaddik must learn Torah in order to become a talmid chochom (wise man)? Day and night for years and years upon end. Hundreds of thousands of man-hours of work. That dwarfs the amount of work put into any mere building or bridge."
"I never thought about it like that."
"A tsaddik benefits all of those who come to him to learn, seek advice, or spiritual strength. He is called yesod olam (pillar of the world). He is a paragon of wisdom, kindness, and good middos (character traits). What a magnificent spiritual edifice."
"I'm going to cry. His death was truly a tragedy."
"Let me comfort you. He is still standing. He is more permanent than any bridge or building. Even after his body dies, his soul lives on forever in olam habbo (the next world). His teachings will endure even in this world."
"May we all learn from them."
Kinderlach . . .
Let us appreciate tsaddikim while they are still alive. Go to tsaddikim to learn Torah and ask sha'alot (questions). Observe how they conduct themselves in a most regal manner. Ask them for blessings for success in all areas of life. Help them in any way that you can. Appreciate what a truly precious gift Hashem has given to us.
*The end of verse 10:13 Kinder Torah Copyright 2015 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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