The Power of Teshuvah – Day 20
A Father’s Message
In Shevat 5694 (January 1934), Rav Dessler was in London, away from his family during the occasion of his son’s bar-mitzvah. Rav Dessler wrote the following letter to his son:
I was very happy that you have begun to don tefillin. Thank God, until now you have prepared yourself to perform mitzvos. However, my dear son, you need to know that much, much more preparation is required of you. The essence of all the essential principles of Torah is yiras Shamayim …
Do you know what yiras Shamayim is and how to prepare yourself for such a broad-based mitzvah? [Do you know that] one who has yiras Shamayim is able to observe the complete Torah? And the one lacking in yiras Shamayim has not prepared himself at all.
Even if one thinks in his mind that he desires to observe Torah and mitzvos, he knows that practically speaking, when the time comes and he is faced with some desire to the contrary or the Evil Inclination grabs hold of him with whatever reason his heart desires, he will abandon his notion to perform the mitzvah. How, then, will it be possible to prepare himself that he should not abandon the mitzvah he contemplated? Only yiras Shamayim … will enable him to not turn away from the Torah’s path and the mitzvos.”
Rav Dessler provides a powerful metaphor explaining the indispensable role of yiras Shamayim:
Have you ever seen someone who builds a beautiful house to live in, and neglects to include a door? All his possessions and riches are jeopardized as if he himself discarded them in the street.
Similarly, one who lacks yiras Shamayim is left without protection from difficulties and hurdles, because … he has nothing in his heart to hold him back. He will invariably be open to the Evil Inclination, which will enter his heart whenever it wants. And he will do all that the Evil Inclination wants him to do. It will result in lawlessness.”
Rav Dessler concludes:
Yiras Shamayim and only yiras Shamayim is the “watchman” that can guard all the wealth of Torah and mitzvos with which we deal. And how do we achieve yiras Shamayim? …. We, by ourselves, must build it and have it enter into our hearts…. Whoever is very attentive to the words of mussar will gradually become accustomed to it, and yiras Shamayim will enter into his heart.
Therefore, my precious child, the desire of my soul, pay close attention to what I am telling you. After all, these are the words of your loving father whose hopes all depend on you …
Points to Ponder:
- Yiras Shamayim is the essential underpinning of one’s service to God.
- Like a house without a door, a Jew without yiras Shamayim is vulnerable to the yetzer hara’s theft of his spiritual wealth.