How to raise up fear – Rav Ofer Erez

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In Likutey Moharan, Lesson 15: 2, Rebbe Nachman says the following:

“How do we raise up fear? By judging our own actions, and in this way a person can remove from himself all fears, elevating fear to a state of clarity and purity. And then, there will remain with him only fear of Hashem and no other fears. Because when a person doesn’t judge himself, they judge him from above…”

Rabbenu teaches us in Lesson 15 that one of the greatest tikkunim is for a person to contemplate the lackings that he has within him. In our daily hitbodedut, it’s enough for us to see one failure that we had today, this week or even in the last year, where we identify that maybe we have a little bit of jealousy, that we didn’t look favorably on someone else, or had some other bad trait or lust.

It’s important to remember the following rule. The yetzer hara loves the work of judging ourselves. Every time a person comes to judge himself, the yetzer hara comes along with him and tries to strengthen the person in his work. He says to him: ‘on the contrary, this is a great tikkun that all the Tzaddikim went through. Well done! You have revealed really where you are in the world’.


After a person checks and checks and discovers all the hundreds of weaknesses and lusts he possesses, along comes the yetzer hara and says: “Now that we have learned so much about the real you, now tell me, is there any hope for you? Maybe after a thousand years in Gehinnom, if you’re lucky, they’ll find you a place in some far off corner near the gate of Gan Eden…”

The yetzer hara uses this service to make a person’s heart very heavy. Therefore the work of ‘judging ourselves’ is actually very dangerous and can cause a person to fall into despair and depression.

In practice, a person needs to identify one or two bad character traits within himself a day. For example, today I identified that I have anger, today I identified that I have jealousy. Then, he should immediately come to Hashem and say to him: ‘Abba, have mercy on me, I don’t want the anger and I don’t want the jealousy, help me to not be this way’. This helps all of his spiritual work.

In most cases, without a broken heart, a person can’t successfully pass through such self-examination unless he suddenly receives a ‘spirit from above’ and feels an immense desire to regret and cry. In general, though, it’s important for a person to go with the above advice, in order that he’ll have the strength to continue and not to fall as a result.


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One of the main results a person achieves through self-judging is that he doesn’t go through the world with a false imagination. Every person has good days, when he is on an up, when his prayers flow and he manages to do good deeds. But, after a week like that, he already falls into confusion that he’s certainly the Tzaddik of the generation, or at least a hidden Tzaddik, and those around him are the ones holding back the redemption…

Rav Dessler says in his book “Michtav MiEliyahu” in the name of the Maharal of Prague, that what is holding back the redemption is not our lackings and our sins, rather it’s the falsehood in a person that he doesn’t see the truth about himself.

The work of judging oneself is an immense tikkun because it removes the screens between us and Hashem and helps us come close to Him.


It’s important that a person learns to confess, and to protest the bad, without falling as a result. We want the opposite to happen! The goal is to be happy with the work of clarifying the truth, because all this internal cleaning builds a new closeness to the Master of the world.

Rabbenu reveals to us that through judging ourselves a person removes all his fears. This is the secret: all the fear that we feel doesn’t actually come from the things themselves. In reality, there are no ‘scary things’, no scary Arabs, no scary dogs, rather there is a decree from heaven that this thing will come and cause me to be afraid now.

Why? A person sins and doesn’t pay attention to it. Then the time for judgment above arrives, and they judge him and this results in the person experiencing fear down below in order that the person will wake up and judge himself.

Therefore, when a person follows the advice of judging himself, there is then no need for him to be judged above, because he’s already done the work himself. “When there is judgment below, there is no judgment above”, and then a person won’t have any decrees made against him, and he has no fears. This is the way to remove all fears from upon ourselves.


When a person works constantly on this, even for just a few weeks, he’ll now find that those things that he used to fear in the past, no longer scare him. Afterwards, says Rabbenu, many gates of Torah and prayer are opened up for him. This is the removing of the masks and coming closer to Hashem. A person who holds on to truth, merits to have the Torah (which is truth) revealed to him.

Working on judging ourselves takes just five minutes a day, where we confess to one or two matters, protest that we don’t want this and request mercy from Hashem that He should save us from these things. When a person is a “master of accounting”, as the Zohar calls it, in this world, then in the World to Come there is no Beit Din that is able to judge him. Rather Hashem Himself judges this person, and when Hashem judges a person, he’s always found innocent.

  • Excerpted from Rav Ofer Erez’s new book in English, From the Depths. If you’d like to help get ‘From the Depths’ and other of Rav Ofer Erez’s books printed and translated into English, please contact: 

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