Off the Pulpit

Praying For Fear

On Rosh Hashana we repeat U’vchein ten Pachdecha which is literally – grant your fear. Since fear seems such a negative concept, why is this phrase so central to the prayers?

Fear can be a more powerful motivator than love. You may love others, but a police car behind you will be more effective in getting you to drive safely than the love of the driver in front of you. And while it is true that fear sometimes prevents us from doing what we might, it is also true that a bit more fear might help prevent us from doing what we ought not to do.

We fear being hurt, but how much do we fear hurting others? We fear missing out on what life has to offer, but how much do we fear missing out on enabling others to take advantage of life’s joys? The fear we pray for makes us broader, not more narrow, kinder, not clenched and closed.

Judaism is based on love – “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Rather than denying other emotions however, it raises them to a level where everything we are, even our fears, can contribute to holiness.