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Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on August 7, 2020

Last I checked, fear is an emotion we like to avoid most of time outside of a short thrill ride or at most two hours of tension during a frightening film. Even then, the fear is only acceptable because I’ve chosen to experience it.  However, fear that is put upon me, such as shaky turbulence on a plane, I can’t wait for it to end so that the tension is released.  Given our pejorative relationship to fear, it becomes difficult to understand why fear becomes the focus of G-d’s relationship with us. It is mentioned double the amount of times of love in the Torah, and it appears from this week’s parsha that it is the only thing that G-d really wants from us- to fear him. 

              Further, if we examine the human reaction to fear from an action stand point, things make less sense.  The goal of fear is to inspire a person to move away from that which causes fear, to create a distance.  If the goal of Judaism is to create a relationship with G-d, then why is G-d encouraging us to maintain a safe distance from him?

              A way of thinking about this is that relationships need fuel to function.  Nothing is more toxic than when a relationship is in a state where both parties feel that they’ve ‘made it’.  As soon as that feeling sinks in, the effort goes down and the cracks start to set in.  Relationships are always dynamic and always need an input to stay connected. The impetus for input is a realization that there is still a distance between the parties, and therefore, room for growth.  A healthy dose of fear reminds us that despite all of our commonalities with G-d, having a physical dimension means there is still a massive gap between us and G-d.  This gap is what makes us ‘fear.’ There is a distance that we can’t seem to close, and fear is the emotion we use not only to cause distance but to imply distance.  However, G-d can’t make us see this gap, we have to realize it is there for our self. Ironically, had G-d made us see the gap it would in the process close the gap; therefore, this is one area of life where G-d stays out.  This is behind the talmud’s famous dictum, all is in the hands of heaven except for fear of heaven.