Jan 12, 2010

What can we do to cultivate Yiras Shomayim?

yiras shomayim=fear of heaven

If you were/are looking for a shidduch for yourself or your child, how would you determine whether a candidate has yiras shomayim?

If you were a principal of a school and needed to hire melamdim or moros, how would you know if the interviewees have yiras shomayim?

I think that there are two categories of yiras shomayim. "Real" yiras shomayim is something between you and G-d. Yira is an emotion of the heart and only Hashem knows what's doing in your heart. Yira is fear, fear of sin and awe of Hashem. How do we behave when alone? Is it with the feeling that "shevisi Hashem l'negdi samid" (I place Hashem before me constantly)? How about when away on business, out in the boondocks, on vacation when there are challenges with kashrus, observance of Shabbos, tefilla etc. Do we cut corners when no one is looking?

What I'll call "practical" yiras shomayim is seen in a person's actions, and it is this that we are told to look for in a sofer, shochet, melamed, shidduch. And this entails adherence to Shulchan Aruch and even beyond.  But we are complex people and sometimes (oftentimes?) some of our actions demonstrate yiras shomayim while other things we do, show the opposite.  As the Gemara says, even a thief as he is going about his sinful activities, prays to Hashem for success! And there are also things that we do that are motivated less by yiras shomayim than by habit and doing whatever other people do.

As far as how to instill yiras shomayim in children, in Gemara Shabbos, Rabbi Nahman ben Yitzchok's mother was told by astrologers -your son will be a thief. So she made sure he covered his head, saying to him, 'Cover your head so that the fear of heaven may be upon you, and pray [for mercy]'. In fact, the word "Yarmulka" is comprised of two words: Yareh Malka-the fear of the King.

Teaching children brachos and to answer amen, to kiss sefarim when they fall or when they have finished using them, to behave in shul, not to enter Shabbos at the last second (or later).  What else?

1 comment:

  1. I was trying to think of an answer to those questions and then my daughter-in-law called. She said that from now on, if someone wanted to buy something for her kids, that they have enough toys, but that she wanted Jewish books. She also did not just want any Jewish books but books with true Torah content. She has seen a number of Jewish books that don't have much Torah in them, if they have any at all, or they convey negative messages. One son has also said the same thing about his children's books but his children don't speak English to begin with and the books for his kids must be in Hebrew or Yiddish. This is not to say that all books is Hebrew have Torah content; far from it. My daughter would rather have her children read religious books in English than secular books in Hebrew, even though they speak Hebrew to the children.
    It seems that what my (grown) children are saying is that their children enjoy books and Shabbos is spent reading to the kids and that books that teach Yiras Shamayim are crucial to teaching it.