Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 4 January 2014 / 3 Shevat 5774

Rejoice With Trepidation

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

“Serve G-d with awe, and rejoice with trepidation (Psalms).” The Sages inquired: What is the connection between the opposite ideas — joy and trepidation? They answered: In a place of joy, there should also be trepidation (Talmud Berachot).

In connection to the above the Arizal writes: “It is forbidden to pray while depressed, for in doing so the soul will not be able to receive the supernal light that is normally drawn down upon a person during prayer…. One must also act with great humility, totally submitting himself before G-d with fear and awe, while at the same time harboring great joy within him, as much as possible.”

Our Father Our King

From the well-known “Avinu Malkenu” [Our Father Our King] prayer, we see that on the one hand, we relate to G-d as a loving father, while at the same time He is our King.

As a King, it is fitting to show G-d the proper honor. Furthermore, when one reflects deeply on the fact that G-d manifests Himself in the world as a king, he will be overcome with fear and awe, for a king’s decisions are based on justice, not love.

In contrast, as a father, G-d loves each and every one of us dearly, wanting only what is best for us. As G-d's children, we are all granted permission to enter into His chamber, to seek advice, or to ask for our wants and needs. When one realizes that he is relating to G-d, Who also relates to us a Father, he will feel comfortable speaking out his thoughts and feelings, as one would speak to a friend. The more one becomes accustomed to this, the easier it will be to overcome the great fear and trepidation which can sometimes be felt when turning to G-d in prayer.

Finding the Right Balance

When attempting to draw close to G-d through prayer, one must remember to also keep a distance. Only when one attaches himself to G-d, both with love and fear — joy and trepidation — can one experience the ultimate closeness to G-d. Only by fusing these emotions — drawing close through the feelings of love and joy in one part of the heart, while at the same time remaining distant through the feelings of fear and awe in the other — can one truly approach G-d with the proper state of mind, establishing a true connection with Him. This is the appropriate foundation for prayer.


Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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