Trust and Fear of God.

In the nineteen eighties, Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. created dialectical behavioral therapy or D.B.T. In this context, the term dialectical refers to an integration of two opposing concepts. As a the therapeutic model, D.B.T. helps one truly accept the reality they face. At the same time, they’re encouraged to challenge the status quo, and begin the climb towards a healthier life.

The dialectical aspect of D.B.T. is extremely relevant to us all, not merely those suffering from a mental illness.

We could all use help with balance. As we travel through life, we tend to identify with a particular worldview or set of character traits. “This is me” we say, “and don’t you dare try and change me!”

Is the world really as black-and-white as we make it out to be? Can there be more than one side to an issue?

Life itself is extremely complex, and we need to learn how to understand and apply two opposing ideas or character traits. This is especially true in the world of interpersonal relations.

The human being is comprised of two opposing traits — lovingkindness and strict justice. While some situations call for flexibility and love, others demand firmness and strength. The vast majority of life circumstances, however, require a delicate and balanced blend of flexibility and firmness.

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Our most fundamental relationship isn’t with our parents, our spouse, or our children, it is with God.

Here too balance is key. We need to feel tremendous love and gratitude, even as we maintain and build our sense of fear and awe for God– Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth.

While love and gratitude are popular concepts, fear seems to have a bad rap. After all, who wants to be in a state of fear?

Let us take a moment to rethink our perspective on fear. A person becomes afraid when their confidence is shaken. Just a moment ago, I was calmly strolling down the street, happily feeling my two feet hit the pavement. As I notice a threatening looking fellow approach, my confidence falters, and I no longer feel the stable ground beneath my feet.

Sadly, we often erroneously apply this exact fear to our relationship with God. Is it any wonder that fear of God is not very popular?

The Amidah, the focal point of our prayers, teaches us a very different perspective. As we utter baruch we bow, and we straighten up as we say the name of Hashem.

Rabenu Yonah writes the following incredible explanation of this behavior. Our first order of business is to bow in submissive gratitude. But that isn’t the end-goal. We stand tall and straight as we utter the name of Hashem. In doing so we express our confidence that God will care for all our needs. It is this trust in God that is the end-goal.

If our sense of wellbeing is based on our self-confidence, then fear of God seems like a negative. However, if our entire equilibrium is based on our confidence in God, then fear leads to trust.

Fear is a sense of vulnerability. That vulnerability has one purpose, to allow us to tap into our rock-solid source of strength – God.

As the Jews prepared to leave Egypt, they needed to learn this vital lesson. Throughout the duration of the plagues, they had safely walked the streets of Egypt. Now, as the plague of the firstborn approached, they were told to stay indoors.

The Jews were also endangered by the plague, but they had a place of refuge. As each family celebrated their very first seder, they directed all of their trust to the true source – God.   

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