Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov tells us: “One must lift up fear to its root… to know whom to fear. That is, to experience an exalted fear, which is the fear (awe) of G-d.” (Likutey Moharan I:15)

There is a concept in Chasidus called “fallen fears,” which means that we fear some person or thing rather than Hashem. This is referred to as “fallen fear” because mortal enemies are only Hashem’s tools for chastising us, whereas when one’s fear is directed appropriately towards Hashem, there is no need to fear anything else.

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By meditating on the fact that G-d is the Master of all and the only true power, we can elevate fear back to its source. Then the enemy becomes powerless against us, and the fear itself dissipates. Thus, Rebbe Nachman says that we must know “whom” to fear because that is the way to transform our human fears into avodas Hashem (service of G-d).

Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter tells a story he heard that happened during World War II. A Nazi soldier on guard duty caught hold of a passing Jew. “Your life is in my hands,” the Nazi taunted. “I can kill you in an instant, and no one can save you!”

The Jew, who had a deep faith in Hashem, answered, “My life is in G-d’s hands. If He does not want me to die, you will not be able to kill me.”

The Nazi was outraged by this response and demanded that the Jew admit to his “truth.” But the Jew held firm to his belief, as the Nazi yelled and argued with him for nearly an hour. Finally, his time on guard duty was over and he no longer had the authority to kill the Jew and was forced to leave.

It was the Jew’s very conviction that his life was in Hashem’s hands that kept him from fear and saved his life. May we all be zoche to elevate our “fallen fears” by internalizing that only Hashem has the power to do to us for good or otherwise, chas v’shalom.

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Rabbi Nosson Rossman is a rabbinic field representative for the Orthodox Union. He can be reached at nathanlrossman@gmail.com.