In the book Playing Big, business coach Tara Mohr refers often to fear. Early on in her book, she recounts a lesson by Rabbi Alan Lew, who taught that the Bible uses two different words for fear. The first, pachad is 'the fear of the phantom, the fear whose object is imagined.' These are the what-if fears, worst case scenario types of things. Fear of pain, embarrassment, or shame, everyone has felt it at some point. This is a type of fear I'd like to blog about at some point (and maybe talk to a therapist about), but not today.
Today I've been thinking about the second type of fear, yirah, which has three different meanings:
HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT.
I have felt that feeling and never had a word for it.
My first real grown-up job, doing major fundraising for Habitat for Humanity, I felt it a lot. There was fear of failure, sure, but it was more this kind of terrifying wonder at the opportunity, the immense desire to fill the space in all the ways I felt were possible. In a recent episode of my podcast with my brother Brian, we were talking about that jolt of panic when inspiration strikes and you want desperately to be able to keep up with it, due it justice. His idea for a Christmas Carol musical came in the middle of the night, as so often is the case. I maybe also have felt this when I am unexpectedly well-slept or over-caffeinated, but it's hard to know if it's really the same thing.
And that last one, fear in the presence of the divine. English doesn't do it justice. When the scriptures say we will look to God with fear and trembling, I've never felt that. To me, connecting with the diving isn't scary. But it's not always just comfort or solace or support. There's this, I don't know, grandeur of it. There's something yirah-y about the vastness of space and omnipotence of God. Moreover, that we, little collections of cells and DNA are important in all that vastness and omnipotence. It feels BIG. Energetic, you might even say, to connect with that divine.
In writing this book, I have felt yirah in all three ways. I have felt energized and inspired. I have felt unsure of being equal to the vision. I have felt intense connection with God in a way that feels new.
Now, to deal with that other pesky pachad.