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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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REFOCUSING THE PRAYER EXPERIENCE

God, Are You Threatening Me?

God Threatening Me

Photo Credit: Yori Yanover

I am not suggesting selective prayer, nor am I endorsing an escape from the uncomfortable, just because it’s uncomfortable. Rather, this is a nod to the reality of our emotions. Today, fear tends to alienate, rather than precipitate change. A message of love, forgiveness, and compassion inspires. Both themes can be found within the liturgy –we select our focus. The decision of where to invest concentration, limited, even for the best of us, will determine if some of us leave our seats disheartened, or with the auspicious taste of a sweet New Year.

Hannah Dreyfus is a junior at Stern College for Women, double majoring in journalism and Judaic studies. She is managing editor of The Observer, official newspaper of Stern College, and hopes to pursue a career in journalism.

About the Author: Hannah Dreyfus is a junior at Stern College for Women majoring in journalism. She currently works as managing editor of the YU Observer and an editorial intern for The Jewish Week. Her work has appeared on Aish.com, The Times of Israel website, and in The Jewish Press. She hopes to pursue a joint degree in journalism and law.


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2 Responses to “God, Are You Threatening Me?”

  1. Shira Leff says:

    I never viewed Nesaneh Tokef as a threat. I think of it more as a catalyst for stripping through our facade of self-sufficiency to allow us to realize that really G-d is in control. With that framework, we can more easily feel the awe and the significance of the Yamim Noraim in general, and of the impending judgement in particular. Through our realization of our dependence upon G-d (He does, after all, ultimately decree 'who will live and who will die'), we come to a state of deep love for Him.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So I disagree. Its not that we don't respond to fear – you are just not scary enough. They don't believe that you will follow through. They know their parents will back them up and if you send them home a week early it is you who will not be there next summer. Ahava (love) is great – but bypassing Yirah (fear) leads to a distorted view of Ahava.

    In the movie "A bronx tale" the following dialogue takes place…the kid asks the gangster "Is it better to be loved or feared?" to which the gangster (played by the great Chazz Palminteri): "It's a good question. It's nice to be both, but it's difficult. If I had my choice, I would rather be feared. Fear lasts longer than love."

    While obviously love of Hashem is the ultimate goal – without the respect that comes from fear, however, – you are just deluding yourself.

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While fear used to motivate, even inspire, mine is a generation that views threats as challenges and raises a skeptical brow at austere ultimatums. Reverence often seems a throwback to old times, and absolute authority, whether in classroom or in the synagogue, is a concept increasingly more difficult to swallow. As a counselor at an Orthodox Jewish sleep-away camp this past summer, I witnessed this phenomenon first hand. I worked with forty teenage girls, ages 15 and 16, and quickly discovered the most dependable way to get nothing done: threats.

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