Posted by: HAT | December 16, 2014

More Fear

relief image of a chassid in ecstatic posture

“This world is the lowest, and yet the loftiest of all,” for although people experience the fear of God, they can also, through fear, attain to love – according to a student of Rabbi Aaron of Zalman

Hi, Gang!

Speaking of “fear,” and its relationship to mystical experience, here’s a little nugget of vindication from the Hasidic world. According to Martin Buber, Rabbi Aaron of Karlan was

… a veritable fountain of the love of God and that whoever heard him pray was seized by the love for God. But the picture becomes complete only through the words the same zaddik [Shneur Zalman] said about Rabbi Aaron’s great fear of God after his death. His love was only the flowering of his fear, for only through great fear – this was Rabbi Aaron’s basic feeling – can one attain to great love. He who has not this fear does not love the great and terrible God himself, but only a small convenient idol. [1]

A small convenient idol could, it might need to be said, inspire the kind of “fear” that tries not to make mistakes or “do bad things” so as to avoid punishment. But not the kind of fear Rabbi Aaron seems to have had in mind, that arises in conjunction with wonder, radical otherness, appreciation of the implications of divine freedom … “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” … that kind.

Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim, trans. Olga Marx (New York: Schocken Books, 1975) 47 Nook edition.


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