And so Lord our G-d, instill fear of You upon all that You have made, and dread of You upon all that You have created; all your creatures should fear you, and all creations should prostrate themselves to You… —High Holiday Amidah.
A strange prayer, would you not say? We are told all day that fear is our greatest enemy. One of the great mantras of Eleanor Roosevelt was, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” People spend tens of thousands of dollars to go to therapy and rid themselves of their fears.we all come to shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Mature, intelligent and successful people. And what do we pray for? “And so instill fear of You upon all that You have made, and dread of You upon all that You have created.” Just yesterday we paid the therapist $245 to get rid of fear, and today we are asking G-d to instill fear in us? Is this normal? Are we trying to impose neurosis on ourselves?
The answer is both simple and profound. Generally, fear could be very destructive. Fear often paralyzes people; it keeps them stuck in a quagmire. But there is one form of fear that is both necessary and very positive: fear of G-d.
A human being is capable of falling very low. And we must know that G-d is concerned with our behavior each moment and craves us to behave morally and kindly. G-d loves us and empowers us to live great and extraordinary lives, and He anticipates that we make the right choices every moment of our lives. Every person needs to ask himself or herself one question before they do anything: What does G-d think about this? Does He approve? If the answer is yes, go right ahead. If the answer is not, you need to reconsider. This is the right way to live.
And if you truly fear G-d, you are more likely to be fearless in other areas of life. The less you fear G-d, the more you will fear other things in your life. You will fear people, you will fear public opinion, you will fear peer pressure, you will fear yourself, you will fear your mother in law, you will fear the mouse in the house, you will fear what this one says or that one thinks.
The more you fear G-d, the less you will fear everything else. Because if you are truly G-d-conscious, you answer only to one authority. You are not for sale. The sole barometer of your decisions in life is what G-d thinks of them.
So when the Baal Shem Tov was a boy of five he lost both of his parents. He was orphaned from both his father and mother. The last words spoken to him by his father before his passing were: "Yisrolik, fear nothing but G-d alone."
Fear of G-d is one fear modern psychology would do well not throwing out the window.