Afraid? Who, Me?

Unexpected political developments can be scary.  Over the past year, Americans have been barraged by disturbing events and images on an almost daily basis. 

It was really scary for people living comfortably and securely in England when they awoke on Wednesday morning, December 5th, 1914. A nation that hadn’t seen rationing or military conscription in living memory was at war with Germany.  Many people stayed home that day in sheer panic about what was to come.

It was soon after lunch on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, that Americans in New York and Washington discovered that their Pacific naval base in Hawaii had been bombed by Japanese aircraft.  People were rightly frightened by the unknown terrors that lay ahead.  For almost an entire day, most people just sat at their radios.

On Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001 Americans were glued to their television sets in uncomprehending numbness as they watched the Twin Towers fall.  Like most frightened people, they remained passively watching the attacks again and again as news outlets replayed the frightening footage.

Well, of course once you allow fear to grip you (which is exactly what it does – hence the figure of speech, “he was gripped by fear”) you discover that there is no short- age of things to feel frightened about. Your health, your finances, your children, earthquakes, spiders – I’d better stop right there! I certainly don’t mean to get you started now. But what is one to do when feeling utterly demoralized by fear? 

To find a clue, I high tailed it to the Bible and found this verse: 

Be not afraid of sudden fear. 
(Proverbs 3:25) 

In Hebrew, the word “fear”, PaCHaD, is made up of three letters and looks like this (remember: Hebrew reads right to left): 

פ ח ד
D CH P 

In Hebrew, many important words read forwards and backwards with opposite meanings in each direction.

Thus, looking at PaCHaD backwards is important – and we find the word DaCHaF. 

No, you haven’t caught me in a mistake. In Hebrew the letters P and F are the same and as languages evolved this left its stamp as you can see by looking at the word “fish”, which derives from the same word as the astrological sign “Pisces.” Just change the P of Pisces into an F, and you’ll see how this works. 

Back to DaCHaF – what does it mean? It means to propel or to push forward. We can see it used in the Bible here: 

And Haman was propelled into his house. 
(Esther 6:12) 

The word used for propelled is DaCHaF. Well, if DaCHaF means propelled, then not surprisingly, its reverse, PaCHaD which we know means fear, also must mean restrain, handicap, keep back.  So being paralyzed with fear is exactly what fear does and so it makes sense that the opposite of fear is advancing forward. 

Isn’t that precisely what fear does to us? Fear freezes us in place. Ever read anything like this? “He stood rooted to the spot with fear” or “paralyzed by panic.” It is therefore obvious that ancient Jewish wisdom’s advice when gripped by fear is: start moving! Overcome the tendency of fear to suppress action. Deliver yourself from the trance of passivity. 

Yes, but how? Again, a Biblical clue: In Exodus 14, the Israelites, just out of Egypt are transfixed by terror. The ocean stretches out in front of them and the mighty Egyptian army rapidly approaches from the rear. Trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, one might say: 

…they were utterly terrified and they cried out to God. 
(Exodus 14:10)

Their fear completely dominated them. 

God’s response was not to split the Red Sea as you might have thought. It was the momentous lesson you and I can learn from verse 15: 

And the Lord said to Moses, “What are calling to me for?
Direct the Israelites to march forward! 

What do you mean? Into the ocean? Yes! And it wasn’t until Israel marched forward into the water that God told Moses to initiate the miracle of splitting the Red Sea. Verse 22 soon confirms the sequence of events. The Israelites went into the midst of the sea, and only thereafter come the words: on dry land. 

They activated their own miracle and contributed to their own deliverance by conquering fear generated inertia. If you want your own Red Sea to split, you’d better “March Forward.” Do not retreat–in that direction lies your personal equivalent of the Egyptian army. But above all, don’t become paralyzed and passive. March Forward. 

Regardless of what geopolitical, epidemiological, or economic crisis is terrifying you, do not allow it to immobilize you.  March forward and take care of your essentials; your family, your finances, your faith, your fitness and your friendships. 

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38 thoughts on “Afraid? Who, Me?”

  1. Much appreciated words of encouragement! What is the Hebrew word for “a stranger in a foreign land”? That’s how we’re feeling these days!

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  2. Absolutely great writings, tools for thought, and very uplifting! Helpful beyond measure! Thank you so much.

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  3. Dear Rabbi,

    I am so thankful that you keep the tidal wave of fear held back with the Truth of His Word!

    Thank you!

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  4. This is very encouraging, thank you. Last night as I had just finished reading some “news,” I felt so heavy hearted for our country and people. In my heart I was just silently praying, anguishing over how this sudden influx of evil and overreaching control was going to affect us and our children, when my 5yr old little girl came bounding into the room and said, “Mama, I once watched a movie where a man was bit by a poisonous snake, but the snake did not hurt him. He was on a ship and a storm made the ship crash…they all had to swim to the shore, then when he sat down, the snake bit him, but it did not hurt him at all.” I just sat there in tears.

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  5. This is a wonderful accompaniment to your podcast about the end(s) of the world. I remember thinking after 9/11 that things could never return to any semblance of “normal,” and yet they did. Even the patriotism, the turn to faith and prayer, the sense of community, fizzled out in almost no time. In all of the chaos of the past year, what concerns me most is the censorship of dissenting views. That has been the starting point for totalitarianism too often. My six children are between the ages of 12 and 24. If I am afraid of anything, it is that they will live out the rest of their lives in 1984, so to speak. My heart grieves all the good “normal” things that will possibly be lost to them. God bless you.

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    1. I have the same fear for the United States Kristin Hall,
      Even to the point I’m becoming afraid to share my views on the internet.As the “New national Socialists” I mean Democrats are promising a witch hunt against “everyone ” who has been standing with Donald Trump aka Friend of 🇮🇱 Israel. What I’m saying is we Christians have seen this before. Scared and terrified Church leaders in 1930’s and 40’s Germany..remember Bonhoffer.
      The indifference of Church leaders in the southern states during the Civil war..
      I offer both as examples of tyrannical governments who unfortunately were using the Churches pacifity and the Fear and Panic (Fallen Sons of perdition)
      Of the day conjured by witchcraft and recited by William Randolph Hearst types and then regurgitated by all his media.. Fear and Panic..
      They get people to recite it and speak it over and over.
      Brings us to today when we’ve been held illegally against our will (in most intances) Against our will in our houses for a year with fear and panic stuck on repeat..I fear and I’m seeing panic..
      Fear is a tricky Devil for “only Perfect Love (Yeshua) drives out fear” ..
      Thank you Rabbi for this timely word.

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  6. Thank you for these words of wisdom and instruction. It is very easy to let fear sneak in, and very seductive to channel that fear into anger and bad behavior. Moving… acting… pushing forward in the face of fear forces me to recognize what I am able to actually control.

    I won’t list all of the things that I CANNOT control, regardless of how scared, angry, passionate, or noisy I get. But…

    I can control when I get up in the morning. I can control what I have for breakfast. I can control my attitude for the day. I can control my productivity at work. I can control how much gratitude I feel and express. I can control my financial habits and spending decisions. I can control my exercise habits and healthy (or unhealthy!) diet choices. I can control when I turn off the TV and the computer and pick up a book. I can control when and how I speak with my parents. I can control when I play with my cats, and when I go to bed.

    When I control these parts of my life, I am amazed at how little I feel compelled to control the rest of the world (which I can’t).

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  7. The Rev Dr John Avery Palmer

    Always Really appreciate your detailed explanations of the meaning of the Hebrew letters, words etc.; Aloha !

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    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Rev. Palmer,
      Happy to hear you enjoy diving into the meanings of words and letters as much as we do
      Cordially
      RDL

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  8. Thank you! It does feel like the world has ended. Focusing on the Five F’s is important. This and your podcast have refocused our attention away from the doom and gloom of viruses and elections. My wife and I find great value in your work. Thank you, Rabbi and Susan, for sharing wisdom and understanding.

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  9. Thank you! It does feel like the world has ended. Focusing on the Five F’s is important. This and your podcast have refocused our attention away from the doom and gloom of viruses and elections. My wife and I find great value in your work. Thank you, Rabbi and Susan, for sharing wisdom and understanding.

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  10. As always, your insight and wisdom has given me comfort. My mind is swirling with ideas that will keep my eyes looking forward. May God bless you and your family.

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  11. Randy Gershon Kumah

    Wow, Rabbi what a word of encouragement.. You always make my joy fulfilled.

    Now I understand what the bible said in the New Testament. “Jesus slip through the crowd” He was always moving away from terror not out FEAR But His steps were steps of faith to just to get those fears vanquished.
    Thank you Sir,

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  12. Rabbi Lapin, This reminds me of a lecture made by a constitutionalist and historian David Barton. He told about these lions. He had heard how that male lions aren’t the skilled hunters but how the female lionesses are. The male lion will roar loudly and get the whole jungles attention but how if say you should ever be in a jungle and hear a roar to not panic and run away from the roar but towards it why? Because if you run away from his roar you run right into a trap. The female lionesses are generally at the opposite end of where the male lion hangs out and you would be out numbered and running right into them….a trap made of skilled huntresses. His message was run towards the roar, it kinda reminded me of old war movies where the calvary would storm ahead into battle.

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  13. Words like these are the reasons all God created human beings needs each others. Forget about what religion you deal with. We are one on this planet. Thx very much Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

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  14. teresa baumgartner

    fear a generational curse; every word u describe fear, resonates loudly. I heard u, Susan say same on ur TV show. But this More Detailed. U’ve given me a weapon, for attack. God uses u, for soo many of us. Thank you….sooo v much. Teresa

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