The Price of Fear

Genesis: Vayishlach

The Price of Fear

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

The Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear, “Dune”, Frank Herbert

Paul Atreides, the hero of Frank Herbert’s classic Sci-Fi epic “Dune”, overcomes his fear by reciting the Bene Gesserit Litany. If only it were always that easy.

In Jacob’s biblical struggle with the angel, he is wounded. Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) attributes the angel’s ability to wound Jacob as a result of fear.

Jacob’s apparently bloodthirsty brother, Esau, was on his way to confront Jacob together with 400 of his men (posse anybody?). It would seem normal, if not prudent, to have some fear of the situation. Hizkuni however, is of the opinion that we should not have fear of any mortal device or intention. This requires a high level of general faith. Hizkuni seems to demand this of Jacob. Jacob is further taken to task as he had been reassured previously and directly by none other than God Himself (can’t ask for a better bodyguard):

“Behold I am with you; I will guard you wherever you go.” Genesis 28:15

Because Jacob exhibited fear –

“Jacob became very frightened, and it distressed him.” Genesis 32:8

— he became vulnerable to attack and injury. Otherwise, Hizkuni claims, he would have been impervious to attack.

In the popularized words of FDR:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), First Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1933

When they are fearful, I often tell my children that fear is a healthy thing – a sign of intelligence. If we did not fear (and respect) the flame, we would get burned. The key is to establish the correct relationship to the fear.

One last quote:

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

May we succeed in conquering all our fears, and thereby prevent unnecessary injury.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Frank Herbert, the creator of what many have termed the best Science-Fiction book ever – “Dune”. Even non-Sci-Fi fans might appreciate his masterpiece.

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