Friday, August 11, 2017

Just Yirah

Sfas Emes blog 
Eikev 5632 Third Ma'amar

Chazal[1] teach us that everything is in the hands of God except for fear of Heaven. They learn this from the following pasuk in our parsha, "מה ה' א-להיך שואל מעמך כי עם ליראה את ה' א-להיך ללכת בכל דרכיו ולאהבה אותו ולעבוד את ה' א-להיך ... לשמור את מצוות ה' .../What does God your Lord ask of you if not to fear God your Lord, to go in His ways, and to love Him, and to serve God your Lord … to observe God's commandments …" (Devarim 10:12) However, looking at this pasuk we see that much more is required of us than fear of Heaven alone. While fear of Heaven is the first requirement, the pasuk goes on to list essentially everything else in the Torah including serving God as best we possibly can and doing all the mitzvos. And conventionally, we understand this Chazal as meaning that the only thing about which we have a choice is whether to fear God. Everything else is in His hands. How then, can Chazal infer from this pasuk that everything is in God's hands except for fear of Heaven? Furthermore, are Chazal saying that we have free will only regarding fear of Heaven?

The Sfas Emes explains. Chazal are teaching us that awe of God is the prerequisite for everything that follows. When Chazal say that everything is in the hands of God, they mean that the power of God is latent in everything. Of course, we have a choice as to whether we will perform a mitzvah. However, even if we decide to perform it we will only be able to acknowledge the spirituality latent in that mitzvah (and in everything else) if we fear God – acknowledging His presence. This is what Chazal[2] mean when they said that awe of God is the key to unlocking the spirituality of the Torah that is inherent in everything.

We can learn the importance that Chazal attached to awe of God as a prerequisite in our service to Him from a homily on the pasuk above. "מה ה' ... שואל מעמך .../What does God … ask of you?" Chazal[3] read the word מה/what, as מאה/hundred, and learn that we are required to say one hundred blessings each day. What compelled Chazal to learn מאה/one hundred blessings, from מה/what, of this pasuk specifically?

The answer involves an understanding of the significance of a blessing. When we say, for example, the blessing, בורא פרי העץ/Who has created fruit of the tree, we are acknowledging that the power of God is in the fruit of the tree. The blessing is a recognition of our limitations. The word מה/what, as well, alludes to our limitations (as in ונחנו מה/for what are we.) Chazal therefore learn of our requirement to say blessings specifically from this pasuk because this pasuk teaches us the importance of understanding our limitations by acknowledging God in everything. May we merit it! 

[1] Brachos 33b
[2] Shabbos 31b
[3] Menachos 43b

מה ה"א שואל כו' כ"א ליראה כו'. אף שחושב עוד כמה מעלות. רק שע"י יראה אמיתית יכולין לבא לכל השאר. וחז"ל למדו מכאן הכל ביד"ש חוץ מיראת שמים. הפי' שיראה הקדמה לכל דבר. ובאמת הכל מהשי"ת רק שע"י יראה יוכל האדם להרגיש הארת השי"ת שיש בכל דבר. וחז"ל אמרו על יראה שנק' מפתחות החיצוניות. שהחיצוניות מסתיר הפנימיות והעצה לזה שע"י היראה נופל פחד על החיצוניות ומתגלה הפנימיות כנ"ל. וכל דבר שמבקשין מהאדם נכלל בהקדמת היראה שעי"ז עוזר השי"ת על השאר. וכן אז"ל אל תקרי מה אלא מאה ולמדו ק' ברכות כו'. שיש בכל דבר ברכה מהשי"ת ורק ע"י הכנעת האדם לידע כי מה הוא וע"י השפלות והיראה מתדבק בהאחדות והוא כח השי"ת וזה פי' הברכה לדבק כל דבר בשורשו שהוא רק מהשי"ת. וזה א"ת מה אלא מאה כנ"ל: