Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spirit of the Law Chanukah 6

(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:6) “The custom in our country is to do as the ‘mehadrin l’mehadrin’—in the most scrupulous way. Everyone lights. On the first night, we light one candle, and on the second night tw,o and we add each night until we have all lit eight candles.”
Reb Nosson of Breslov writes in his Likutei Halachos that the flame of the Chanukah candles represent the fire of yiras shomayim—fear of heaven. Although fear normally diminishes one’s life, the fear of Hashem is different. As the verse says: “The fear of G-d adds to one’s days.” (Mishlei 10:27) This echoes the Vilna Gaon’s commentary on the verse. For this reason, if one’s fear of Hashem leads to worry and despair, it is a clear sign that this is not true fear of G-d. True yiras Hashem is called yirah l’chaim—“awe that enhances one’s life and spiritual vitality.”
This means that it brings one to feel joy. We can obtain this type by focusing on the good and not the bad. If one learns the importance of not talking slander, he can worry about it all day or he can thank Hashem for each time he didn’t speak slander and realize that the main purpose for the warnings against the habit is to encourage us to refrain. This is by our realizing that if doing it is so bad, refraining from it is that much more important and worthy of joy.
We light a new candle every day to teach that we must increase our devotion and longing every day. This is true yirah l’chaim. Through this, one is full of life and vitality. “The fear of G-d adds to one’s days!”


Shorty said...

I thought the "fear" is actually more awe rather than being "afraid".

To me there are two reasons to be "afraid"
1)False Evidence Appearing Real...we are fearful of those things we don't fully understand, so we "create" mountains of molehills so to speak (I mountain bike, so this makes a lot of sense to me...)

2) Fear can be positive - its our "Risk Assessment" - the emotion of fear indicates that something isn't Ok. that we need to open our eyes more, be more observant.

What do you think?

Micha Golshevsky said...

I think you are talking about fairly healthy fears (at least sometimes.) Sadly, unhealthy fear is fairly common. Many people find all sorts of things to worry about (though they sometimes won't admit it.)
Sometimes one knows that he must be careful to avoid ruining something good. In that event he often doesn't feel the negative effects of fear since he isn't worrying, just taking care.
In avodas Hashem, we only need to do our best and it is never too late to truly change. Fear of Hashem should cause us to take advantage of the present moment as Rav Nosson explains at very great length. Any intense worry about spirituality (for example: when moshiach comes what will become of me?) shows us that we are not truly spiritually aware of our good points or that we can truly change. If we believed we could truly rectify everything why be afraid? Why not just start picking up the pieces and change what I can?
It is interesting that Rav Wolbe writes that most people do not truly believe they can change. If someone feels that he can not change, is it any wonder that he worries? (About after moshiach etc.)
Feelings of worry and any other spiritual failings should signal us that it is time for us to make a new start.
I think awe is a totally different and higher level. Fear applies when one has a spiritual test or after failing one. It galvanizes one to work to avoid failure. Awe applies to one who is in a higher spiritual state (at least while experiencing it.)