After I caught myself kissing my Tefillin absentmindedly this morning, I started to wonder how many things I do that have no meaning at all the way I do them. Here’s my list:
-Everything to do with davening, brachos, etc. This is all a waste of mine and God’s time.
-Learning. Resentment and being uplifted don’t seem to be very compatible.
-Trying to better myself. I do this because I got confused early on with low self-esteem and working on my middos.
-Doing chessed. I don’t think I have that much real feeling towards people I deem ‘inferior’. I’m nice because I think God is watching and marking me down for extra credit.
Now, I know it’s impolite to admit these things in public, and they’re probably more evidence of a pessimistic view of life than anything else, but the odd thing is I’m really following “Fear God and keep his mitzvos, for this is all of man”. I’m assuming Shlomo wasn’t just a bitter old curmudgeon. Yet he says again, in Koheles 7:13-18-
13 Consider the work of God; for who can make that straight, which He hath made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God hath made even the one as well as the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity; there is a righteous man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his evil-doing.
16 Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself overwise; why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
17 Be not overmuch wicked, neither be thou foolish; why shouldest thou die before thy time?
18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of the one; yea, also from the other withdraw not thy hand; for he that feareth God shall discharge himself of them all.
Basically, God is in charge and He’s gonna do whatever He wants. Don’t kill yourself to try to do what He wants, because you’ll end up wasting your life and not get anything in return. Just make sure not to piss Hashem off, and you’ll do fine.
Whoa, is that how it’s supposed to be? That’s not what they taught me in Cheder. But actually, the Chumash seems to also pay a much higher premium for fear of God than love. What do the modern, positive, hashkafos do with all this? I’ve seen highly regarded, Yeshivish approved modern seforim that seem to me to twist the Chumash out of the pashut pshat. (For example, when the pasuk says that the Jews at the Yam Suf first feared God and only then trusted in Him and Moshe, a certain sefer says that this fear was actually a result of a love that came first at some unmentioned time before. It was a ‘higher’ fear, meaning a fear of losing the special relationship. This is a huge dochek pshat, imo.)
I happen to think there was a shift at some point, to stressing a love-based relationship over a fear-based one. Even though I’m intellectualizing this emotion-based problem, I’m still curious to get to the bottom of this.