Shabbat Parashat Shemot | 5769
What Type of Fear?
Paroh commanded the midwives of the Jews in
Professor Nechama Leibowitz builds on this position to describe what is meant by fearing G-d, which is mentioned both in the context of not murdering the babies and in the context of their reward. She cites other examples of fear of G-d regarding non-Jews. Avraham explained to Avimelech that he altered Sarah’s identity because he was afraid that Avimelech’s people lacked fear of G-d (Bereishit 20:11), something which apparently upright non-Jews have. The disguised Yosef told his brothers that he would be fair with them because “I fear G-d” (Bereishit 42:18) and did not think this would give away his identity. Furthermore, Amalek’s hideous violence, for which they are eternally condemned is accompanied by the description, “and he did not fear G-d” (Devarim 25:18). This implies that a normal nation would have fear of G-d. In other words, fear of G-d just refers to a basic commitment to human morality that could be expected of moral non-Jews in addition to those who follow halacha meticulously.
These nice observations, though, steal much deserved “thunder” from Avraham. As he passed the test of akeidat Yitzchak, Avraham was told: “Now I know that you are a G-d fearer” (Bereishit 22:12). Does that mean that previously it was unclear if he was on the level of an average gentile?
A grammatical note seems to answer the question. The general fearing of G-d is described in the verb form or talks about the general existence of fear of G-d. A normal person displays, at least occasionally or under certain circumstances, a level of morality that can be called fear of G-d. However, Avraham was described as a person of fear of G-d. This implies the forging of a personality where in all of one’s actions, he strives to do that which Hashem wants. This we find in Tanach only in a few places: i.e., a qualified judge (Shemot 18:21); Iyov (Iyov 2:3). This level of consistency and dedication is what we should strive for.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of Shirley, Sara Rivka bat Yaakov Tzvi HaCohen z”L
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.