In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

he very fact that the virtuous traits which we have thus far discussed are a prerequisite to the fear of sin should be sufficient to make us realize how important and fundamental a trait it is, and how difficult of attainment. It can be attained only by him who has first acquired all the other traits. We have by necessity spoken throughout this work about the middot yirah and anavah as tools for achieving stages of spiritual attainment. At the furthest horizon of attaining the level of the hasid, yirah no longer functions merely as a tool, but defines a way of being in the world that is transformative. Ramchal reminds us that yirah can function this way only for one who has mastered all that has come before, up to and including anavah. It is necessary to state at the outset that there are two types of fear, one that is extremely easy to acquire; and another that is extremely difficult to acquire and, when attained, is an evidence of moral perfection. The two types of yirah that Ramchal describes in this chapter may be understood in terms of kibbush and tikkun. There is the fear of punishment, and there is the sense of awe. It is with the latter that we should identify the fear of sin. We shall now explain the nature of both types, and wherein they differ from each other. Fear of punishment means to fear transgressing a divine commandment because of the punishment, physical or spiritual, which is sure to follow. The capacity for this fear is certainly easy to acquire, since every man loves himself and fears for his soul’s salvation. Nothing will so deter a man from any act as the fear that it might bring him harm. Such fear is good enough for the ignorant, and for women who, as a rule, are frivolous, but not for men of learning and for Chapter 24 h Concerning the Fear of Sin 258 T 259 those who possess understanding. The second type of fear, which is the same as the sense of awe, consists in refraining from sin out of regard for the glory of God, blessed be His name. How shall man, who is base and unworthy, presume to do anything that is contrary to the will of the Creator, blessed and exalted be His name? This fear is not easily acquired, for it involves knowledge and comprehension of the exalted nature of God and of the worthlessness of the human being. Such knowledge is the product of deep thought and wisdom. This is the type of fear which we have mentioned as one of the two elements that constitute saintliness. It overwhelms a man with shame and awe whenever he stands in the presence of the Creator, and whenever he prays or performs some religious duty. It is the fear attributed to the saints of old. Moses also alludes to it in the verse, “That thou mayest fear this glorious and awful name, the Lord thy God” (Deut. 28.58). Kibbush is the easiest type of yirah to attain, but it is flawed and certainly not appropriate when speaking about the level of hasidut and beyond. A person may be both aware of the necessity of bearing the other’s burden and equally so of the yetzer ha-ra’s rebellion at the prospect of this service, yet also manage to serve the other against the impulse of his yetzer by recognizing the tangible rewards that will accrue if he does so. Such a person behaves as if receiving joy from serving the other, but in fact only receives, and is satisfied to receive, the approbation of others in service of self. This approach exhibits a weakness of intellect that Ramchal characterizes as female. We can reject this gender-specific characterization simply because it seems to be extraneous to his argument, even though it is of course not appropriate for this day and age. The type of fear which we are now discussing, namely, the fear of sin, is an aspect of the sense of awe, though it has also special characteristics of its own. In the fear of sin, in its strict sense, a man is always anxious about his actions lest they be corrupted by a trace of sinfulness, or by anything, however great or small, that ill accords with the greatness of the glory of God, blessed be He, and His exalted name. See, then, how closely...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.