“He won’t fear bad news”
“his heart is steady, trusting G-d.” [1]

(This post follows the 3 prior posts on teachings about faith in Berachot 60a)

In the previous interpretation, directing the heart to G-d made one unafraid to hear bad news: deeper ideas about G-d’s Presence and Goodness neutralize fear. It’s an example of working on ourselves from “the inside out” (i.e. changing our thoughts and feelings to change our outer behavior).

Expressing fear in difficult circumstances, we increase our own fearful feelings.

In the 2nd of Rabbah’s interpretations of Psalm 112:7, the heart remains steady, trusting G-d, because one refuses to indulge in fearful feelings or their expression.

This approach focuses on controlling our feelings and expressions of fear, in order to maintain a peace of mind that’s conducive to faith. It’s working on ourselves from the “outside in” (i.e. changing our actions to affect our thoughts and feelings).

We might “control our feelings…of fear ” by refusing to express them, by calming ourselves (“take 3 deep breaths”), by doing a relaxation technique, etc. We can apply the same approach to feelings of resentment, hostility, impatience, etc.

We must take great care, of course, not to simply suppress expressions of fear, while maintaining fear-thoughts in our minds and fear-feelings in our hearts. We must acknowledge the thoughts and feelings, understand why we feel them; do “self-evaluation” or “cheshbon ha-nefesh.”

Along with that, we have to find alternative actions and attitudes. For example, instead of fearing an upcoming event (e.g. losing a job, G-d forbid), we can make several alternative plans to deal with it, and focus our attention on those plans, rather than on fearful thoughts about what “could” happen.

But — shouldn’t we just “have faith”?

In fact, “having faith” involves using both approaches. The first approach gives us peace; the second helps us preserve it. That’s why Rabbah said that in teaching Psalm 112:7, either clause could explain the other.

To “have faith,” we have to develop deeper, more comprehensive ideas and feelings about G-d’s Presence and Goodness and, at the same time, observe our own reactions, and make conscious choices about new ones that disturb us less.

Thus, the same gemorrah [2] give the following anecdote as an illustration:

“Rabbi Yehuda ben Natan used to follow Rabbi Hamnuna. Once [Rabbi Yehudah] sighed, and the other said to him: “This man wants to bring suffering on himself, as it’s written, ‘..the thing which I feared has come upon me…’ [3].”

Rabbi Hamnuna says “he wants to bring suffering on himself”: By “sighing,” Rabbi Yehudah is going to make himself feel worse, and deny himself the peace that faith could give him.


[1] Psalm 112:7, quoted in Berachot 60a
[2] Berachot 60a
[3] Ayov/Job 3:25