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The Only Fear We Should Have

Topic: Well Being | Posted:November 25, 2015

There is a teaching about the portion of Vayishlach from Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, who my father, Rav Berg always told us has a very special connection to the Kabbalah Centre. The Rav received this connection to Rav Menachem Mendel from his teacher, Rav Brandwein. Therefore, every time we study from him we not only connect to his great Light and wisdom, but we also connect to Rav Brandwein and the Rav, as well as draw a tremendous Light of protection from him.

So, he quotes a section in the Midrash. We read in the beginning of this story in Vayishlach that Jacob was scared; and it is not often that we find a great elevated soul to be scared. The Midrash asks how we can understand this; we know that fear is usually a manifestation of a lesser connection with the Light of the Creator, and, as such, a person who is completely connected to the Light of the Creator should never experience fear. We read in this portion that Jacob was filled with fear as he heard about the approaching army of Esau, yet we know that there was nobody who was both as connected to and also as guaranteed by the Creator to receive protection as Jacob was. Not only was Jacob closest to the Creator, he was also the one who the Creator promised no harm would ever come to; how, then, is it possible that Jacob experienced fear?

The Creator gave Jacob a guarantee. And how can you lose a guarantee from the Creator? A guarantee means that it can never change no matter what. So, the kabbalists give a secret. They say that the fear of Jacob in this portion stems from the concept that he might do something of a negative nature that will remove the guarantee of protection of the Creator from him, or do a negative action that would make him lose that connection and that protection from the Light of the Creator.

The ultimate purpose of a person who is spiritually elevated and connected to the Light of the Creator is to always be connected to the Creator. That is the purpose; everything else that we do is to bring us to a stronger and stronger connection to the Creator. Therefore, even if the Creator promises a tzadik - a righteous person, a person who is connected to the Light of the Creator - all the guarantees of blessings and protection, that person is still afraid something is going to happen.

As such, it says Jacob was not afraid that he was going to get hurt because he had a guarantee that he would never get hurt. But it was this guarantee, actually, which filled Jacob with great fear that he was going to get hurt. Why? Because he had a guarantee that he will not get hurt, his fear was that he would lose a desperate need for the Light of the Creator. If he is guaranteed by the Creator to receive all the blessings and to receive protection, what difference does it make how much spiritual work he does from that moment on? What is going to happen to his spiritual drive? What is going to happen to his desire to be connected to the Light of the Creator?

For most people, the reason we do the spiritual work is because we want the blessings that come with it. We want endless blessings, we want protection. And it is true, if a person does his spiritual work properly he can receive blessings, he can receive protection. But it is deeper than that, and this is so beautiful. Jacob said, “I have a guarantee. I never have to worry, and that is terrible.” Why? Because now he has nothing to drive him to connect to the Light of the Creator. Yes, of course, he will continue being a spiritual person and will pray and study and do actions of sharing, but with no desperate need, because he has all the guarantees from the Creator.

For us, it would not be scary. If the Creator came to us and said, “I promise you from this moment on, for the rest of your life, you will have all of the blessings you ever desire and you will have all of the protection you will ever need,” that would be the best day of our lives, because we would not be scared about anything anymore. Yes, we would still be spiritual people, but we would not be desperately spiritual, because we have a guarantee. And this was the fear of Jacob.

Because of the guarantee from the Creator, Jacob was afraid that the worst thing that could happen is going to happen; which is not that he was going to be physically hurt, not that he was going to lose blessings, or not that he was going to lose protection, but that he was going to lose his desperate need for the spiritual work and a connection to the Light of the Creator. He was afraid that having received this guarantee, he was no longer going to be desperate in his spiritual work.

The greatest fear for Jacob was the fact that he knew he did not have to be desperate anymore, that he would not feel a desperate need in his spiritual work. That is what he was afraid of, and therefore, it says “Jacob was afraid.” Jacob had to be afraid, he had to ask and beg that this guarantee of blessings and this guarantee of protection do not diminish his connection to the Creator. This is what Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk is saying, and this is what we want to understand and receive on this Shabbat. Whenever we feel, on some level, satisfied with what we have, we lose the desperate need for the Light of the Creator. That is the fear that Jacob was awakened to on the Shabbat of Vayishlach, and that is the only fear that anybody should have.

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