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A Fear of Heaven

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Topic: A Fear of Heaven

From: Stacey M.

Dear Rabbi,
In your reply (Ohrnet Vayera) to H.M.'s question for more information regarding the end of days, you stated that "...such pursuits add nothing to a person's fear of Heaven, which according to Judaism is man's main purpose." Could you please explain this statement? I've never heard it, and I did not know that we were to fear Heaven, just not want to be there too quickly! Thank you very much for all your interesting and informative discussions!

From: Marla D. in Campbell, CA

Dear Rabbi,
Although raised in a Jewish (Reform) home, I have never heard of this concept before! Please explain what you meant by a "fear of Heaven." What is there about heaven to fear? I was taught that man's purpose was to live a life that reflected G-d's love of us toward others. Heaven was never taught as a place to be feared. Thanks for your wonderful "Ask the Rabbi" newsletter.

Dear Stacey M. and Marla D.,
By "Fear of Heaven" (Yirat Shamayim) we mean fear, awe, or respect for G-d, not fear of the place where the soul goes after death, as many readers misunderstood.

Why is G-d called "Heaven"?

Like the heavens, G-d is beyond comprehension. The universe is finite, but we don't see that. We perceive it as endless.

I have a hard time visualizing six pickles, let alone an expanse of trillions upon trillions of miles. Just looking at the sky gives us a sense of endlessness. So "Heaven" refers to G-d's infinite existence.

Also, G-d is called Heaven because that's where G-d dwells. It's sort of like calling the US president "The White House" (The White House today issued a statement confirming....").

What does it mean that G-d dwells in Heaven? Isn't G-d everywhere?

Yes, G-d is everywhere, but on earth G-d's presence is hidden. This means that we have free choice and we can ignore G-d if we choose to. But in the Heavens, where there are no humans to exercise free choice, G-d's presence is not hidden.

Tehillim 2:4
Malbim, Ibid.

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