“אהבתי אתכם אמר השם”
“I love you, Hashem says”
I heard one of the popular kiruv personalities famous more for his charisma than for his scholarship give a talk where he railed against the approach that we educate our children that Hashem punishes us. It can’t be!! Hashem LOVES us. He even led the listener to believe that Hashem doesn’t punish us.
This is an oft-repeated claim – Let’s just talk about how wonderful everything is and you can do whatever you want but it would be nice to keep a few mitzvos. You’ll feel so good.
This is a big mistake. Open a Chumash and see that Hashem DOES punish. There is nothing we can do to change that fact. And mitzvos aren’t an option. We don’t really have a choice.
But doesn’t He LOVE us? OF COURSE He loves us. His name in the gemara is רחמנא – The Loving One. When He punishes us it is out of love. It is designed to fix and correct us. We need punishment to deter us from sinning in the first place and we need it to purify ourselves after we strayed.
There MUST be אימת הדין! We need to fear retribution. That is what Elul and Tishrei are about. In Europe they used to say that even fish in the sea shake when they heard the call of Elul. This is not a hefker velt. There is a Judge and there is judgment.
But even as Hashem punishes us, his love is not diminished. Therefore – it is CRITICAL that we ALWAYS be bi-simcha. In Elul and Tishrei we HAVE to be bi-simcha. Hashem is close to us. He waits for us to return to Him and His loving embrace. At the root however, there must be a fear of losing it and the ramifications. Fear is a wonderful impetus to action.
In conclusion – Fear of punishment together with an understanding that Hashem does EVERYTHING out of love. And a constant feeling of simcha because we are assured of that love regardless of our deeds.
Love and simcha tempered with fear.