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i-Love-Shema-Elul Kavanot-Fear Out of Love

“Who can get to know the force of Your anger? And as the fear of You so is Your wrath (Psalms 90:11).” This verse can also be read as, “Even according to Your fear so is Your wrath.” What does the verse mean when it describes God’s ‘ fear’? Fear is irrelevant to God. However, the term may be applied to God in the sense that He loves man so much that He fears lest man sin, thereby denying God the opportunity to do good for the man, for it is God’s desire to do only good to a person.


Thus, God’s fear is a “fear out of love,” and the punishment that He metes out to man is also out of love, for He thereby ensures that it will be good for man in the end. By purifying man in this world through suffering, man receives his reward in the next world. This is the meaning of the verse, “even according to Your fear, so is Your wrath,” meaning, just as God’s fear issues from love of man, so His wrath, the punishment he meets out to man, issues from His love of man.

A person must cleave to the Divine Attributes. Hence, just as God fears out of His love of man, so must man fear God out of love of God. He must be seized with fear lest he sin and thereby remove himself from God’s love.

The principle is this: Fear applies only to what the eyes see. What a person does not see, he does not fear. But love is a matter of the heart, and the heart can imagine even that which is invisible.

The Creator is the One Who “sees but is not seen.” A person must therefore imagine in his heart, God’s awesomeness and wonders and the greatness of His kingdom, and thus achieve “great love” for the Creator in his heart. Because fog itself is infinite, man can, by means of thought, attain great ideas without limit.

Hence, man must bind himself to God with bonds of love, and from this love he will learn to fear sin, lest he thereby lose his love. (Noam Elimelech-Vayigash)

This verse, taken from Pesukei d’Zimrah of Shabbat morning, can be applied, especially during the month of Elul, the time of deep love expressed between God and man, to the Shema:

“You shall love God, your Lord, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources.” We are approaching the Days of Awe, and we can use this period of the year to focus on developing “fear out of love.”

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