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Avot 3:21: Ba’al HaTanya Print E-mail

Pirkei AvotRabbi Elazar ben Azariah says: If there is no Torah, there is no worldly occupation; if there is no worldly occupation, there is no Torah. If there is no wisdom, there is no fear of God; if there is no fear of God, there is no wisdom. (Avot 3:21)


“If there is no fear, there is no wisdom,” refers to the lower type of fear which motivates man to observe the divine commandments, both positive and negative. There is a lesser type of a low type of fear, one of “smallness” and a superior type, one of “greatness.”

When one attains fear through contemplation of the greatness of God Who fills all of the worlds, this fear is the gateway to observance of the Torah and the Commandments, but nevertheless it is external and inferior because it issues from a contemplation of the worlds, which are but a disguise of the Holy One, the King.

The higher type of fear is a self-effacing awe of God and internal reverence which is drawn from the divinity that inheres in the worlds. Our Sages said about this type of fear, “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear.” (Tanya, Likkutei Amarim, Chapter 43)

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