Wednesday, October 11, 2017


You might think that fear of Heaven nullifies the self. We say each morning, what is my power, what is my knowledge? Compared to that of Hashem, our power is nothing. But that's not all there is to self. As we strip away the identity of our power, we reveal a different self, a religious self. And we reveal this as well when we recognize the greatness of G-d. After all, we are created in His image. So as He grows in our awareness, our creation in His image grows. Fear of Heaven is accompanied by self-respect.

We need this self-respect to avoid sin. If a person sees himself as garbage, what's to stop him from acting like that? But if he is aware of his own dignity, then he has good reason not sin so as not to offend his own dignity. Dignity matters in halacha. If one spots a lost object in the sewer, he is not obligated to crawl into the sludge to get it. Dignity is not ego. Everyone is entitled to dignity. We say each morning, Who crowns man with tiferes. Rav Hirsch translates this as honor. One must keep this in mind as he engages musar teachings, as he hears of concepts like mesiras nefesh. All of it must be done with dignity. This is not the same as pursuing honor. A dignified person looks dignified even when dishonored. The mitzvos should give a man dignity and he'll need that dignity to pursue the mitzvos.

Along these lines we recognize that the physical always follows the spiritual and dignity is a kind of physicality. The Rambam says that a mitzvah pushes off Torah study. This is not a random requirement and not one to bemoan. As R' Avigdor Miller notes, mitzvos implant the message of Torah within us. This is why kiddush is accompanied by wine, to give the words of kiddush importance in our hearts. R' Yaakov Emden says that Torah not studied in order to be acted upon is not Torah study. We need mitzvos to give life to our Torah. Torah needs mitzvos just as mitzvos need Torah. So too, fear of Heaven is followed by dignity. 

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