The creator of the universe created a wondrous, inspirational world. Whether or not the goodness of the creator is apparent depends upon whether or not we are reflecting our own intrinsic goodness. Why is this?
To one degree or another, we are capable of awareness that the divine presence permeates the world. To one degree or another we are capable of seeing ourselves as a critical element of God’s connection to the world and as instruments of ongoing divine revelation. This awareness is what the Jewish sources refer to as ‘fear of heaven.’
If I am aware that I am an instrument in the service of making a better world, this will undoubtedly influence what I do. Fear of heaven therefore creates cautionary behavior. Fear of heaven-consciousness moves a person to pay attention to a pedestrian crossing the street, even if she herself is talking on her cell phone. Consciousness that we are destroying the world leads us to avoid pollutants or to stop greedy excesses that are wiping out whole species of animals. Consciousness that Israel is facing a band of terrorists bent on its total annihilation brings its government to intercept missiles, destroy terror-tunnels designed for mass destruction and protect its citizens in an ongoing war for survival.
Fear of heaven is not like any other kind of fear. In fact, it precludes fear of anything else in the world. Instead of looking over your shoulder to see what other people will say about you, whether you are an individual, a politician, a journalist or a nation, this kind of fear makes you do what you know is right. It is a fear that refuses to accept lies and deception.
We think that we can figure everything out using human intellect. It’s not so. There is mystery to creation that scientists of the highest caliber are forced to accede to, mystery that is beyond human understanding. As God says to Job, “Where were you when the world was created?” Do you really know everything? Can you possibly understand everything?
So what can we know? Several foreign journalists have come out with truths that they could not tell while they were there in Gaza, because their lives were being threatened. Now, they are reporting that the Shifa hospital in Gaza is the central headquarters for Hamas, that the rocket launchers are planted in dense civilian populations and that Hamas was using children as human shields. The reporters knew this before but understandably, as long as they feared for their lives they lacked the courage to speak out.
There is much wisdom that we have no access to. Yet, there is one wisdom-path that we do have access to, and that is the path called fear of heaven. The meaning of conscience according to Viktor Frankl is the inherent ability to know the meaning of a given situation. But where fear (or apathy or evil) is operating, conscience cannot be accessed. So while conscience refers to the ability to know, we can only own that knowledge and act on it with the courage that fear of heaven brings.