The vast majority of people are far from my artwork*. This is because people’s thought are far from spiritual matters; they are occupied all day long with only matters of this world, may Hashem have mercy. Even those who are occupied with Torah, they remain very bound to this world, in respect to where the Torah could bring them if they were to submit themselves to it fully.
The reason that most people are so far is because most are victims of “fallen fears”; that is, they are afraid of things other than Hashem, Yisborach. For fear of Hashem is the most primary and necessary thing; as the verse says: The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem. But fear that has fallen from the fear of Hashem and has attached itself to other matters is very destructive for the person and for the world as a whole.
The person’s entire life is shaped by the character of his fear. If he fears Hashem, fortunate is he, and his life is whole and healthy. But most people are afraid of other things; of being different, of being disliked, of being wrong**, of failing (not to mention the more common fallen fears: fears of war, of sickness, etc.) There is really no end of the list of fallen fears that subjugate people’s hearts; may Hashem have mercy. The fears thus shape the character of our lives and of society, because our actions result from these fears. Thus we live in a world full of falsehood, a world far from Hashem, for Hashem is not in our hearts, (May He have great mercy) for were He in our hearts, all these other fears would be vanquished; and we would be full of light and happiness and security in and knowledge of Hashem Yisborach. May He speedily rescue us from all this, amen.
*, האמת היא, שגם אני רחוק מאוד מעצם האמנות הזו, הנקראת: “בסתר עליון–אמנות מופשטת דרך פנימה אל הקודש”, שהוא עסק קדוש ונורא ונפלאה ביותר דקא זכה לי הקטן ונבזה מאוד, וכאפס וכאין נחשב, מן שמיא להתעסק בו, אבל אינני שלם בו כלל, כי אינני שלם באף אחד מן התכונות הנכונות הנצרכות להשתלם בהם כגון יראת השם טהורה ואהבתו ית’ המופלגת או באמונה שלמה בו ית’ ובתורתו ובצדיקיו. אז לכן אני גם רחוק מאוד מן התחלית שטמון בעסק זה (ובכל עבודת השם ית’). אבל עצם האמנות הזו–בסתר עליון וכו’ מקורה ושורשה היא גבוה מאוד מאוד כמבואר קצת בכתבים שלי, ויש בזה רחמי שמים גדולים מאוד שקא נתן לי לנגוע באפס קצהו של דבר גדול כזה ולהתאמן בו ולפתוח שערים לבית גנזיו, ואע”פ שאינני ראוי ואינני כדאי מ”מ כך מדתו ית’ כמ”ש רחום וחנון וכו’ וכן הוא לגבי הנלווים עלי בזה העסק, והיינו אלו שמחזיקים בתמונות אלו ומסתכלים ומתבוננים בהם, כמוכן גם הם קשורים לשורש הדברים למעלה מעלה בקודש, ברחמיו ית’ על שארית ישראל, וכן ירחם עוד, אכי”ר
* I used to think that fear of being wrong was an adjunct of fear of Hashem. One is afraid of not serving Hashem correctly; this will cause him to search out to serve Hashem correctly. But I now understand that fear of Hashem is one matter and fear of being wrong is another matter. There are many particulars to understanding this distinction and it is difficult to express in writing; yet those who truly seek Hashem will merit to escape also from fear of being wrong.
How do we work on developing more fear of Hashem and less fear of man?
Baruch Hashem, that is the question to ask.
The holy sefarim are full of answers. Since you ask me, I will give you from what I know, be”H.
I heard recently from my son a unique “definition” of fear of Hashem. It says in the possukim (this weeks parsha):
(שמות ט:כ, כ”א.) הירא את דבר השם וגו’…ואשר לא שם לבו אל דבר השם ויעזב את עבדיו ואת מקנהו בשדה.
The Torah tells us here what is the opposite of fear of Hashem: one who doesn’t שם לבו אל דבר השם .
For me, yirat Hashem is similar to all other spiritual acquisitions, which are similar also to physical acquisitions. One becomes strong physically by “”building up his muscles”, step by step, a bit today, a bit more tomorrow, etc. Also, all spiritual acquisitions are acquired through practice and repetition, over and over, all the day’s of one’s life.
The whole universe was created and continues to exist through דבר השם. To fear Hashem is to put to one’s heart this reality; that everything comes from Him, that there is nothing besides Him. The word for fear יראה, is exactly the same spelling as the word for seeing: יראה. To fear Hashem is to “see” Hashem, to שם לב אל דבר השם, to recognize that it is all Him, only Him.
We are not born with this recognition, nor this fear. By our nature we see a multiplicity of things: people, houses, etc. We see distinction, difference and change. Naturally we also have a multiplicity of fears.
By nature we are superficial, we react to how things appear on the surface of reality. Yet Hashem, in His great kindness, gave us Torah, which is knowledge of His existence; that things are not as superficial as they appear, rather the A-lmighty is behind everything, envitalizing everything, etc.; that the true nature of reality is not multiplicity and change, rather unity and constancy–Hashem alone.
This knowledge, this emunah, this fear, we can only attain step by step, slowly over time. It is a matter of calling to mind, of putting to heart what we know of Hashem and His ways, over and over, in all the situations we pass through, as much as we can. In this way we slowly become more aware of true reality, that Hashem is doing everything, that there is nothing besides Him. Gradually we teach ourselves not to fear that which doesn’t deserve our attention, and to see and fear Hashem alone.
(The Torah is acquired with) awe
(Mishnah, Avos 6:6)
Oil on canvas
ציור שמן על קנבס
40 cm. x 50 cm.