Derech Hashem | What Yiras Hashem Really Is

What does it mean to truly fear Hashem

(Glossary below)

Yirah and Ahavah of Hashem as unique mitzvos

  • All mitzvos are vehicles for the soul to express itself via the body
  • Specific mitzvos are singled out for a special goal
  • Yirah and ahavah affect how mitzvos are done
  • These mitzvos do not have a time restriction

Defining fear

  • Fear is an emotion felt towards a known threat, as opposed to anxiety where the threat is unknown
  • The mind is always assessing the threat level of any situation due to the instinct of self preservation
  • Fear also applies to a threat to one’s self worth

Levels of yiras Hashem

  1. Yiras haonesh
    • This is the knowledge and feeling of accountability one has from Hashem and the possibility of receiving consequences from Him
    • This is the lowest level of yiras Hashem
  2. Yiras haromemus
    • This is the understanding and feeling of being in the presence of the awesome Being that is Hashem
    • One can feel this even if he doesn’t expect any consequences from Hashem
    • This feeling comes from an understanding of the infinite disparity between Hashem and yourself, leading to an awareness of your relative vulnerability and mortality
    • This level is greater than yiras haonesh since one achieves this level through understanding the nature of Hashem (as much as is possible) and an increase in emunah
  3. Yirah meahavah
    • This is the fear that one will disappoint or hurt someone that one loves.
    • One can love Hashem so much that one fears disappointing Him
    • Moshe Rabbeinu initially wouldn’t accept the mission Hashem gave him to free the Jews from Mitzrayim out of fear that he would disappoint Hashem through doing and incorrect action or having an incorrect intention.
    • This is a very high level

Yiras Hashem is foundational

  • It sets an attitude for your performance of mitzvos
  • It stops you from doing wrong
  • It puts you in perspective with regard to your struggle between doing Hashem’s will vs your own will

Developing yiras Hashem

  • Become familiar with the attributes of Hashem as much as possible
  • This can be accomplished through a study of nature (science) and understanding that they are acts of Hashem


  • Hashem: God
  • Ahavah: Love
  • Yirah: Fear/Awe
  • Mitzvos: Commandments
  • Onesh: Consequence/Punishment
  • Chet: Sin
  • Emunah: Faith (Literally: faithfulness)
  • Romemus: Exaltedness
  • Moshe Rabbeinu: Moses our teacher
  • Mitzrayim: Egypt
  • Yiras Hashem: Fear/Awe of God
  • Yiras haonesh: Fear of consequences
  • Yiras haromemus: Awe of the exaltedness of God
  • Yirah meahavah: Fear born out of love

The True Goal of a Holy Person

When we think of the activities of a tzaddik or holy person, we tend to think in terms of his doing mostly mitzvos. This, however, is not the whole picture. Rabbi Kessin presents a paradigm shift in the way we think about avodas Hashem / service of God.


The neshamah/soul and its power to be mezakeich / purify the body & the universe

  • The neshamah/soul is, at first, imprisoned in the body in that it cannot be mezakeich / purify it
  • The neshamah / soul is freed to be mezakeich / purify the body during Olam Habah / The World to Come
  • Doing ratzon Hashem / God’s will stores credit towards the magnitude of zikuch / purification the neshamah / soul will be able to enact.
  • Stages of transition to Olam Habah / The World to Come:
    • Mashiach Ben Yosef / The Messaiah from the Tribe of Joseph will subdue all evil in the world.
    • Mashiach Ben David / The Messaiah who is a Descendant of King David will destroy all the evil. From the beginning of his reign until the year 6,000 from creation the dead will be resurrected (Techiyas Hamesim)
    • First 1,000 years (after the year 6,000 from creation) the physical universe will no longer exert its physicality, and the universe will undergo zikuch / purification while the body remains inert (This is called Chad Choruv – the One Thousand [Years] of Desolation).
    • For the next 2,000 years the body undergoes zikuch / purification
    • In the 9,000th year Olam Habah / The World to Come begins


How mitzvos / the commandments are mezakeich / purify

  • Mitzvos / the commandments are interactions with the physical world in a way prescribed by Hashem / God
  • By doing a mitzvah / commandment, you suspend your own will in deference to the will of Hashem / God, testifying that ein od Milvado / there is nothing but God
  • Hashem / God then credits you with the potential for zikuch / purification to the magnitude of your actions and intentions.
  • All of halacha / the Jewish codes of law define interactions with the physical worls as prescribed by Hashem / God


Both mitzvos / the commandments and voluntary actions l’sheim shomayim / for heaven’s (God’s) sake can accomplish zikuch / purification

  • There are 2 series of positive tikun / rectification devices:
    • Mitzvos / commandments, which are mandatory
    • Necessary survival activities where you have in mind to use them to serve Hashem / God better. These are optional
  • A true tzaddik / holy person does everything for Hashem / God. He or she can be said to be God-conscious
  • Between these 2 tikun / rectification devices, it is possible to serve Hashem / God 24/7
  • A tzaddik does not think in terms of mitzvos / commandments and aveiros / sins. Rather he or she thinks about God more than they do about themselves
  • Even if a mitzvah / commandment is easy to do because of a self-interest, one may receive a little schar / reward anyway since it was likely done at least slightly for Hashem’s / God’s sake
  • We need to work on moving further from self interest and closer to thinking about Hashem / God