July 25, 2024
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July 25, 2024
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In Sefer Devarim, Parshas Ekev (10:12), Moshe Rabbeinu says to the Jewish people:

וְעַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה אֶת־ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ

“Now, Yisrael, what does Hashem, your God, ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your God …”

In Gemara Brachos (33b), R’ Chanina learns from this pasuk:

ואמר רבי חנינא הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים שנאמר ועתה ישראל מה ה׳ אלקיך שואל מעמך כי אם ליראה

“Hakol b’dei Shamayim chutz m’yiras Shamayim.”

“Everything comes from Heaven except for fear of Heaven.”

All is decided by the One Above except for reverence for Him, which is completely up to us.

Hashem determines absolutely everything: whether a person is tall or short, how he looks, whether he has hatzlacha with his parnasa or his business arrangements; but whether or not someone has yiras Shamayim depends completely on himself!

Based on this fundamental principle, the first Gerrer Rebbe, the Chiddushei HaRim, asked, “If yiras Shamayim can only come from us, why do we ask Hashem for it every single morning?”

In Ahava Raba, the bracha recited before Krias Shema, we request:

וְיַחֵד לְבָבֵנוּ לְאַהֲבָה וּלְיִרְאָה אֶת שְׁמֶךָ.

“…v’yacheid l’vaveinu l’ahava u’l’yira es shemecha…”

“…and unite our hearts to love and to fear Your name.”

Why do we ask Hashem for yiras Shamayim if it is up to each individual to choose whether or not to have it?

The answer is that yiras Shamayim is definitely determined by man, not God. Nevertheless, we fervently pray that Hashem grant us the strength and wherewithal to have yiras Shamayim. In doing so, we express how much we sincerely treasure and devoutly wish to revere His name.

We see a fascinating application of this in the Birkas HaChodesh tefillah that we recite on the Shabbos preceding the start of a new month.

חַיִּים שֶׁיֵשׁ בָּהֶם יִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם וְיִרְאַת חֵטְא. חַיִּים שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶם בּוּשָׁה וּכְלִמָּה. חַיִּים שֶׁל עשֶׁר וְכָבוד. חַיִּים שֶׁתְּהֵא בָנוּ אַהֲבַת תּורָה וְיִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם.

We daven for lives filled with yiras Shamayim. After a few more requests we ask for it yet again! Why is there this repetition?

The first request is as described above: even though yiras Shamayim is up to us, we express our desire for it by asking for Hashem’s assistance.

The second request follows brachos asking for lives of osher v’kavod, wealth and honor. When someone becomes very successful there could be a tendency for them to lose their fear of Heaven. Therefore we need a double dose of yiras Shamayim to help ensure that the strength of our emunah, our belief in Hashem, will not be compromised by wealth and honor.

By Rabbi Zecharia Senter


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