The Torah commands in Parashat Behar (25:17), “Ve’lo Tonu Ish Et Amito,” forbidding us from doing and saying certain things that cause our fellow distress and anguish. One of the examples given is walking into a store and browsing through the merchandise without any intent to make a purchase. The storeowner becomes hopeful of making a sale when he sees a prospective customer entering the shop, and then experiences a great deal of anguish when the customer leaves without making any purchases.
This verse concludes, “and you shall fear your G-d, for I am Hashem your G-d.” Rashi explains that the Torah added this warning because proper observance of the prohibition of “Ve’lo Tonu Ish Et Amito” requires genuine Yir’at Shamayim – fear of G-d. If one says or does something that causes his fellow emotional harm, he can always make it appear as though this harm was unintended. For example, one can claim that he entered the shop to look for an item to buy, but did not find anything to his liking. Only Hashem knows what is in our minds and in our hearts, and so only He can know whether we have violated this command. One must live with an awareness of the fact that G-d has full knowledge of our thoughts and intentions, and this awareness will ensure that we do not cause people distress under the guise of innocence.
Many people are intimated by the concept of “Yir’at Shamayim.” They think that living with “fear of G-d” means living a stressful life, always worried and anxious. They feel that if they live with this awareness, they will be paralyzed and unable to enjoy life. But this is not correct. As Rashi’s comments show us, “Yir’at Shamayim” helps us live the right way and stay on the right track. It prevents us from cutting corners and acting unethically in the hope of never getting caught. Fear of G-d is nothing to fear. It is a vital asset in our pursuit of a happy, ethical and fulfilling life, and something we should wholeheartedly embrace, rather than avoid. By living with “Yir’at Shamayim,” we help ensure that we will not fall into the trap of immoral conduct, and adhere to the highest standards of ethics and integrity in all our dealings.