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he way to attain this fear of God is to realize the following two veritable facts: first, that the Divine Presence exists everywhere in the universe; and secondly, that God exercises His providence over everything, both great and small. Nothing is hidden from His sight. Nothing is too great or too small for Him to see. He beholds and discerns equally all things, whether trivial or important. This thought is frequently expressed in Scripture: “The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 6.3); “Do not I fill heaven and earth? Saith the Lord” (Jer. 23.24), “Who is like unto the Lord our God, that is enthroned on high, that looketh down low upon heaven and upon earth?” (Ps. 113.5); “Though the Lord be high, yet regardeth He the lowly, and the haughty He knoweth from afar” (Ps. 138.6). When a man is convinced that, wherever he is, he always stands in the presence of God, blessed be He, he is spontaneously imbued with fear lest he do anything wrong, and so detract from the exalted glory of God. “Know what is above thee,” said our Sages, “a seeing eye and a hearing ear, and all thy deeds written in a book” (Ab. 2.1). Since the Holy One, blessed be He, exercises His providence over everything, and sees and hears all things, everything that man does is noted and recorded as merit or demerit. A clear realization of God’s omnipresence comes only with continual reflection and profound meditation. The matter is so remote from our senses that only after much study and speculation can the intellect conceive it. And even after one has come to realize God’s omnipresence, that realization tends to grow faint unless it is kept continually in mind. As reflection is a means to the cultivation of unswerving fear of God, so are thoughtlessness and inattention, whether they are due to the press of business or to the lack of will, the greatest hindrances to it. Thoughtlessness is the very negation of unswerving fear. This is why the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded that the king should always have the scroll of the Torah with him. “And he shall read therein all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God” (Deut. 17.19). Learn thence that the trait of fear may be acquired only through Chapter 25 h The Manner of Acquiring the Fear of Sin 265 T 266 Mesillat Yesharim h the uninterrupted study of the Torah. Mark the expression, “that he may learn to fear,” since this fear does not come naturally. On the contrary, the human faculties, being physical, are averse to it, and it can, therefore, be attained only through study. Study with that end in view involves close and continuous application to the contents and principles of the Torah. When a man sits, or walks, or lies down, or rises up, he should ponder upon God’s omnipresence, and upon our confronting God at all times and at all hours, until these truths become deeply rooted in his mind. Then will he fear God in truth. Thus David prayed, “Teach me, O Lord, Thy way, that I may walk in Thy truth; make one my heart to fear Thy name” (Ps. 86.11). The attainment of yirat cheit implies that of yirat ha-shamayim as well. These are the two necessary types of “fear” that define the bridge between hasidut and kedushah (holiness). From this idea of a bridge comes a deeper understanding of what is generally called Divine Providence. Whereas the traditional understanding of Divine Providence is that nothing escapes the consciousness of the Divine, for Ramchal it is related to human wakefulness. In other words, in some mysterious way, the heightened level of wakefulness on the part of a human being, touches the “heavens”— touches the nature of the divine. At this heightened level of personal responsibility, a mystic fabric is created that enfolds the human and the Divine. At this stage of the spiritual journey, the possibility of achieving total wakefulness presents itself, albeit in a mysterious way. The hasid is very much a human being who expresses hasidut by remaining aware of the continuing effort required to inhabit the level of hasidut. As we, however, transition to the final moment of the journey and begin to describe the level of kedushah, we reach the horizon that is beyond description, beyond experience. The infinite...


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