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Our Ultimate Concern


Torah Portion: Parashat Vaetchanan

Shabbat: July 29, 2023 | Av 11, 5783


Priestly Blessing

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26


Our Ultimate Concern | Further Thoughts on Parashat Vaetchanan

What we fear says a lot about us, since fear is closely linked to what we value and ultimately worship... All the world is lit up with the radiance of God our Savior. Fearing lesser things blinds us to the truth of Reality and glorifies the realm of darkness. The world system is based on slavery to such lesser gods and fears, but we are to walk in the awe of the LORD God Almighty alone, and the light of his reverence overcomes the fear of this world. As the Gerer Rebbe said: "If a man has fear of anything except the Creator, he is in some degree an idolater. For to fear is to offer worship to the thing feared, and this form of worship may be offered only to the LORD."

אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ תִּירָא

וְאתוֹ תַעֲבד וּבִשְׁמוֹ תִּשָּׁבֵעַ

לא תֵלְכוּן אַחֲרֵי אֱלהִים אֲחֵרִים

מֵאֱלהֵי הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבוֹתֵיכֶם

כִּי אֵל קַנָּא יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ בְּקִרְבֶּךָ

et-Adonai · E·loh·hey'·kha tee·rah

ve'·oh·toh · ta·a·vod · oo'·veesh·moh · tee'·shah·vei'·a

loh · tei·le·khoon · a·cha·rei · e·loh·heem · a·chei·reem

mei'·e·loh·hei · hah·a'·meem · a·sher · se·vee·vo·tey·khem

kee' ·el · ka'·nah · Adonai · E·loh·hey'·kha · be'·keer·be'·kha

"It is the LORD your God whom you shall fear.

Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.

You shall not go after other gods,

the gods of the peoples who are around you

for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God."

The fear of the Lord, yirat Adonai (יִרְאַת יְהוָה), is reverent awe and honor that resembles the great trembling of love: mekudeshet li: "With this ring I do consecrate thee..." The Scriptures repeatedly state that this fear is reishit chochmah (רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה) the "beginning of wisdom" and the foundation of all true godliness and obedience.... Sin always entices us to fear the "lesser gods"; it seduces us to live in arrogance, pride, anger, envy, lust, despair, and so on. Sin expresses the opposite of godly reverence and seeks to justify cowardly indolence so that people learn to actually "love" and defend what enslaves them...

Fearing lesser gods is an affront to the glory and majesty of our Savior. We are commanded to be full of courage given by God's own spirit: It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deut. 31:8). "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed -- for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!" (Josh. 1:9).Hebrew LessonJoshua 1:9 reading (click):

The fear of the LORD expresses the power of faith to repel the schemes and designs of the devil. Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve'" (Matt. 4:10). "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Ultimately, the fear of the LORD is a great gift, the underlying motive of all true teshuvah (repentance). When the people heard the Voice of the LORD thunder at Sinai, they drew back in fear and appealed to Moses to be their mediator: "You speak with us and we will listen, but let not God speak with us, for we might die" (Exod. 20:19). Moses replied, "Do not be afraid, for God came in this way to test you and in order that His fear should remain before you, so that you do not sin" (Exod. 20:20). The point of fearing God, then, is to keep us from what separates us from the love of God. The Kotzker Rebbe commented: "When Moses exhorted the people not to be afraid, he meant that the fear "for we might die" was not what God wants from us. Rather, God desires that the fear of Him should remain before you so that you do not sin. That is the only true fear of heaven." The "fear of the LORD" is that we might lose sight of what we really need for life...

John J. Parsons

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