Many people confuse fear of G-d with fear of punishment and retribution. True fear of G-d is the fear of being separated from Him, and is the flip side of Love of G-d. If a person loves someone deeply and takes great pleasure in being with that person, therefore, when he is separated from the one he loves, his pain and suffering will be commensurate to the pleasure he feels when he is with his beloved. This can be understood from the relationship between David and Yehonatan, as the verse states, “They Kissed and Cried”. Their grief over their separation was in direct proportion to their pleasure in being together. From this we see that love and fear of G-d come in equal proportion to each other. According to the degree of love of G-d will be the degree of fear of separating from Him.
Fear of punishment, on the other hand, is not actual love of G-d at all, but rather a love of self. The reason he does not sin is because he fears Divine retribution and it is therefore not related to love of G-d at all. On the contrary, if a person views his relationship to G-d with such a perspective, he may come to the conclusion that G-d is tyrannical, Heaven forbid. This, in turn, may bring him to harbor feelings of resentment towards G-d, Heaven forbid. Fear of punishment is, therefore, not at all a level of Divine service, but is rather the kind of fear of G-d associated with Idolaters.
True love and fear of G-d are called “Trayn Gadphin D’Parchin L’Eiylah – The two wings which fly upward”. Just as the two wings of a bird must work in conjunction and with equal force in order to cause flight, so too, in our service of G-d, the love and fear of Him must be in equal proportion to each other, in order for our service to soar upward. The two come together as one. But, how are true love and fear of G-d to be attained?
We recite three times daily, “Hear ‘O Israel etc.,” and we then say, “And you will love HaShem your G-d etc”. As is known “hearing” refers to the contemplation and understanding of Binah, whereas “sight” refers to the insight of Chochmah. This means that only after one has done Hitbonenut (Analysis and Comprehension) will he arrive at love and fear of G-d, as a natural result of that contemplation.
From the above explanation of love and fear it is clearly understood that the two are born of Daat, which constitutes the attachment and interest in something. Now it is also stated, “If there is no Daat, there is no Binah and if there is no Binah, there is no Da’at.” The explanation of this is as follows. The first part of the statement refers to “focus” and “analysis”. This is to say that before one can begin to analyze any given subject, he must first focus his mind on it, as explained earlier. It is only then that he can begin to analyze the subject. Therefore, the first part of the statement is understood to mean, “If there is no focus, there cannot be analysis.”
In the second part of the statement Binah refers to “understanding” and Da’at refers to “interest”. This is to say that one who does not have understanding into a subject also will not have interest in it. The second part of the statement therefore means, “If there is no understanding there will not be interest.” In contrast, when one understands a subject, this creates a mental bond to it. The greater of an understanding he has, the greater will the bond of interest be. The greater the bond he has to it, the greater pleasure will he have in it. The more pleasure he has in it, the greater will his interest be in it. This propels him to greater and greater understanding in a type of “snowball” effect, which gets bigger and bigger.
Conversely, the more pleasure he has in it, the greater will be his anguish in what he does not understand. We may now understand why love and fear are called the “wings”, because they propel one to greater and greater heights in G-dliness. However, if one does not have Binah (Understanding) he will be incapable of having a connection. This may be understood by the example of one who overhears a conversation. Because he understands the language and the subject they are talking about, his interest and attention is automatically drawn to listen into their conversation. However, if they would be speaking a foreign language, which he does not understand, his interest will not be drawn to their conversation altogether. In the same way, love and fear of G-d are the natural consequences of the understanding of G-dliness, and are, therefore, in direct proportion to how well one understands. Moreover, it is specifically the love and fear of G-d which propel one to serve G-d in deed.