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Facing Our Fears

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg Ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the Sefer, Fascinating Insights: Torah Perspectives On Unique Topics. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

Facing Our Fears

Everyone has fears. The question is do we let fears stop us? Do we avoid being a Chazzan for davening because of fear? Do we fear becoming great in avodas Hashem since this then gives us an enormous responsibility? Do we avoid speaking publicly? Do we avoid asking someone a question in learning because he may think we are not as great as he thought? Do we avoid a business deal because of fears? Do we flatter certain people due to a fear of disapproval? Fear is an obstacle to success.[1] Successful people act in spite of fear whereas others let fear stop them.[2] It has been said that fear are the initials: forget everything and run or face everything and rise.[3] The saying goes “you can try and fail but never fail to try.” We must keep in mind that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

 

Through overcoming fear, we can become great.[4] R’ Baruch Mezbitzer (1698-1760) once remarked there are people who are afraid of swallowing an ant but are unafraid of swallowing a man alive (not utilizing their potential).[5] On the words לא תגנב, Rashi[6] comments that it refers to גונב נפשות, kidnapping. A deeper explanation is that it refers to one killing his potential.[7] “Great people are made not born.”

 

We know that a child is fearless.[8] Yehuda said איך אעלה אל אבי והנער איננו אתי, how will I go up to my father if the youth (Binyomin) isn’t with me.[9] Another explanation is that how can I go up to my father in heaven—Hashem—after my death without the fearlessness that I had when I was a child since with that ability I can accomplish greatly.

 

A ship in a harbor is safe but that is not what it is built for. Just as a ship soars through the waves of the seas so too we need to soar through the waves (fears) of life. For this reason, אניה, ship[10] is rooted in אני, I, as we are the captain of the ship and should soar through the waves of life.[11]



[1] It has been said “if you are willing to do only what is easy, life will be hard. But if you are willing to do what is hard, life will be easy.”

[2] So, it is not necessary to get rid of fear in order to succeed, just don’t let it stop you.

[3] When we run from something, it stays with us longer. When we fight something, it makes us stronger.

[4] There is an expression, “Most things you ever wanted are on the other side of fear.”

[5] The Maharal (Tiferes Yisrael, chapter 3) explains that the word אדם is related to אדמה since the ground contains lots of potential within it which it can bring forth to fruition—trees, plant life, and so forth. The same is with man as he has lots of potential within him. This explains why it is called ‘the fruits of man’ as in אמרו צדיק… פרי , …the fruit of their deeds (Yeshaya 3:10).

[6] Shemos 20:13.

[7] “When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.”

[8] Parenthetically, the Magid of Mezerich once remarked I learned three things from little children. 1) They are always happy. 2) They are never idle (always busy). 3) When they need something they cry out.

[9] Breishis 44:34.

[10] As in Mishlei 30:19 and Yonah 1:3.

[11] Once we have overcome fear many times, we have that momentum and it makes it easier for us in the future. The more we grow, the more our problems shrink. “Big problems become small when we become big.” It is never about the size of our problems rather the size of us!

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