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Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Tammuz 15, 5780
How to understand fear, punishment and awards in Judaism? Thank you
ב"ה Shalom This is a very comprehensive subject which needs intensive and lengthy study. So, in this answer I will just touch upon some main ideas and suggest references for study. The idea of reward and punishment is one of the 13 principles of the Jewish faith as enumerated by the Rambam. Our Rabbis wrote in the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2) that there is a discerning eye and attentive ear (to all our actions) and all our actions are inscribed in a book. The concept of fear of good is explained very clearly and concisely in Messilat Yesharim of the Ramchal in Chapter 24. He explains that there are two types of fear of G-d. One is the simple fear of being punished for one's wrong doings. Nobody wants any harm to come to him, physically, spiritually, emotionally or otherwise. This type of fear is lower level fear of G-d. The higher level of fear of G-d is the not the fear of punishment but the fear of the greatness of G-d with the understanding that how can a lowly human of flesh of blood possibly go against the will of G-d. This type of fear, says the Ramchal, is not easily obtained An offshoot of this type of fear, is the fear of the very possibility of sinning itself , not because of the punishment but because of the notion of possibly transgressing and violating g-d's will. These ideas are only the very fundamental concepts and there is much more to be studied. All the best
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