Allen S. Maller

The most often stated commandment in the Torah is…

The most often proclaimed commandment in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” which appears in the Christian Bible New International Version 70 times. That’s a lot, but it doesn’t include other variants such as “fear not,” or “do not fear,” etc. The King James Version says “Fear not” or “Be not afraid” 103 times.

Most (over 90) of the “Fear not” or “Be not afraid” commandments come from the Hebrew Bible: 20 from the Torah; 13 from Psalms; 26 from Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah; and the rest (30+) spread out in other books of the Hebrew Bible.

The Hebrew Bible isn’t saying there is nothing scary in the world so you don’t need to be scared; because sometimes life is scary. The commandment “do not be afraid” more often than not, is followed by an action that God is or will be taking; so hang tight: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13)

Or “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22)

For many people, Hassidic Jews are noticeable because of their Amish like dress and ultra orthodox Jewish behavior. But it is their unique stress on trusting in God and elevating one’s hopes and soul through joyful religious activities that makes them truly distinctive.

The following Hassidic wisdom sayings give a taste of how the Hassidim follow the “Fear not” or “Be not afraid” commandments and how that stimulates positively their inner spiritual lives.

One of the most important teachings of Hassidic Rabbis was not to worry about the future or sacrifice present joy because you fear it will not last very long. After all, most things people worry about never occur. As Rabbi Mordecai of Lekhovitz taught, “We must not worry. Only one worry is O.K. We can worry about (always) being worried.”

Rabbi Barukh of Mezbizh said: “What a good and bright world this is if we do not lose our hearts, but what a dark world, if we do!”

Rabbi Moshe of Kobryn taught, “When people suffer they should not say – That’s bad, that’s bad! Nothing that Mother Nature imposes on us is bad. But it is all right to say- That’s bitter! For there are some medicines that are made with bitter herbs.”

A Hassidic Sage who was near death got up and danced. When they tried to stop him he said, “This is exactly the time to dance.” He then told them a story and concluded, “When you are faced with very difficult demands, that is exactly the time to dance.”

Equally important 10 times “do not be afraid” is followed by “do not be discouraged.” Why is being afraid and being discouraged connected? Because discouragement is self imposed. Fear is a natural emotion based a dangerous reality. Discouragement is a psychologically self imposed attitude caused by hopelessness.

Rabbi Nakhman of Bratzlav said: “The whole world is one long narrow bridge, so it is essential not to make oneself afraid.”

As Prophet Zachariah states: “Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you [as you lost].” (9:12)

Rabbi Shelomo of Karlin taught, “What is the worst thing Satan can accomplish? To make a person forget that he or she is a child of God.” Never lose hope.

Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pzhysha taught, “The many sins most people commit are not great crimes. The great crime is that we are all capable of repentance/change/reform every day and we do not do it.”

Finally, notice that “do not be afraid” is not a suggestion. It’s a command! The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber asserted more than a half century ago that, “the purpose of all great religions and religious movements is to engender a life of elation and fervor which no (later) experience can dampen and stifle.”

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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