Fear of Heaven

7 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com  shiur by Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen

In order to reach the lofty heights of yirat shamayim (fear of Heaven), one must first acquire the attributes of zehirat (watchfulness), nekiut (cleanliness), tahara (purity), and perishut (asceticism).

There are two levels of yirat shamayim, yirat ha’onesh and yirat ha’romemut. Yirat ha’onesh is fear of retribution. This is easier to reach than yirat ha’romemut (fear of His exaltedness), because man loves himself so much that he doesn’t want to hurt himself. This is only the first level.

Learning Torah or performing mitzvot in order to get reward or avoid punishment is called lo lishma. Doing so without thought of remuneration or punishment is termed lishma. Torah and mitzvot must begin shelo lishma. The beauty of Torah is then revealed through practicing it.

The second level is yirat ha’romemut. After a person has distanced himself from sin, he won’t be able to bring himself to go against the will of Hashem. This is no longer simple yirah. It requires knowledge, intelligence and love to contemplate the majesty and greatness of Hashem.

The Shaarei Teshuva explains daaga (worry) on three levels. The first level is due to fear of punishment. The second level is worrying that even if one has already repented, the yetzer hara may come back again. The third level is fearing that maybe one didn’t repent completely.

Rav Solomon explains that the purpose of daaga is for a person to find a way to avoid punishment. The mitzvot he will do will be instead of retribution. If a person adds to his Torah learning at the expense of enjoying the pleasures of this world, it’s a form of atonement. Taking money he would have spent on luxuries and instead giving it to charity is also a form of suffering. Eat less, relax less, limit your desires, and devote more time to Torah and mitzvot. These are the best ways to achieve atonement.

Yirat ha’romemut relates to performing mitzvot. It’s trembling before the honor of Hashem. Yirat ha’onesh is not just fearing sin when the yetzer hara tells you to transgress, but worrying all the time about going against Hashem’s will. Then a person will always be careful as it says, “Ashrei hadam mefached tamid.” Happy is the man who always fears.

May we be inspired to elevate ourselves to greater levels of yirat Hashem.

Rebbetzin’s Perspective: What are some ways I can motivate my husband to think about Elul and Rosh Hashana?

28 09 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin's Perspective


What are some ways I can motivate my husband to think about Elul and Rosh Hashana without sounding like an annoying seminary girl? I’m not worried about his learning because he has a learning seder (session) every day, but whenever I bring up the idea of change or growth he gets annoyed.



Some men like hashkafa, but most don’t. No man likes to feel as if his wife is the provider and he is the receiver. Be patient. As men mature, they want to know more about how to put it all together. Hashkafa sefarim were really written by and for men and many of them will eventually study them. When they do, it will probably be with a lot more depth and perception, and a higher level of integration than women, because men are much more grounded in Torah learning. By the time he’s thirty eight, he’ll probably be motivating you, instead of the other way around. This is usually how it goes in most marriages.

However, let’s say he’s already forty five and you’re still trying to get him to work on his inner life. Begin by asking some questions such as, “It’s Elul and I don’t feel anything much different than I did in Av. Did they ever say anything about this in yeshiva? Is there anything I could learn that can give me insight?” Make him your teacher. Don’t correct him even if he gets it wrong, just listen. Since his skills are better, in the end his grasp will be much more profound.

It could also be that he’s just not the hashkafa type. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a yearning for spirituality. It’s just that he doesn’t have the ability to listen to the language. His means of communication may be dikduk halacha (care in Jewish law). His ahavat Hashem (love of Hashem) may be expressed through tzedaka, charity. His yirat Hashem (fear of Hashem) may be actualized by the level of kashrut he maintains. Let his deeds show you where he truly is and don’t try to gauge his spiritual standing by how much he’s learning.

How Can I Help My Husband?

1 06 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman, Part 10


My clever, talented, husband is stuck in a dead-end job with very little stimulation and hope for promotion.  I don’t know if Hashem wants him to leave his job, without knowing if he will find something better, or make do with feeling unfulfilled at work.  How can I help him?


If you examine the lives of some of our great leaders, you’ll find that many of them were ordinary craftsmen and shopkeepers. Rashi was a wine merchant, the Ohr Hachaim was a goldsmith, and the Chofetz Chaim ran a grocery. Do you think their work gave them fulfillment? They did it to support their families, which is a noble goal in and of itself. We do not know the end of our life stories. It could be that at this point in your husband’s life he is meant to find satisfaction, like Rashi, in activities outside of work. To make that happen, he will need to organize his day. It could be this is just a transient period in his life. His main test may be withstanding the many nisyonot prevalent in the workplace such as, integrity, judging others favorably, and guarding his eyes. A final possibility could be that he is meant to feel the discontent so that it will propel him to move on to something else. Obviously, he cannot leave his existing job without having a comparable proposition waiting for him. If you can keep your ears open for job possibilities available in his field or other opportunities in which his time could be spent productively when he is not working, that would be a great help.