What is “Yiras Shamayim” (Fear of G-D?) – Rav Motty Berger

“Fear of G-D” is an old-fashioned phrase.  It doesn’t seem to fit into our confident, self-assured world.  It seems to imply – well – fearfulness.  But Rav Noach Weinberg taught that this week’s Parsha gives us the Torah’s down-to-earth definition of “fear of G-D”.

In Shemos 9:19, Moshe tells Pharaoh to take the people and livestock into their homes before the Plague of Hail, because any people or animals left in the field once the hail begins to fall will die.  The Torah continues (Shemos 9:20-21):  Those among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of G-D brought their servants and livestock into their homes.  But those that did not pay attention to the word of G-D left their servants and animals in the field (and they died).

Fear of G-D means paying attention!  It doesn’t mean being holy, and it doesn’t mean being prophetic.  It means not being an idiot!  

It means caring enough about yourself and those around you to pay attention to the reality around you, not to the diversions.

In last week’s Parsha we find a similar trait in Moshe.  At the Burning Bush, Moshe says (Shemos 3:3-4) “Let me turn aside and look at this great sight – why is the bush not burning?”  When G-D saw that Moshe turned aside to contemplate, G-D called out to him from the bush and said, “Moshe, Moshe…….”  The Torah is telling us that Moshe would not have been the right person to lead the Jewish people if he didn’t have the trait of paying attention to the important things that are happening around him.

The world that we are in has an interest in constantly diverting our attention to the things that will cause us to buy what they have to sell.  

We, on the other hand, have an interest in paying attention to the things that are most crucial to our lives.

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