Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk



Understandable and Otherwise

Fears come from many origins and innumerable causes.  Infants react with fear when they are insecure and not held firmly.  This is one of the earliest fears, the fear of falling.  It is instinctual and has its origins very early in life.  Fears can originate from reality. Having had a reality which was harmful frightens the victim when a similar situation presents itself. It can stem from past experiences, either from self experience, from experiences of friends, acquaintances and others; from parental or family fears; from stories better known as ghost stories; from ancestral fears, and much more.  We can name here multitudinous fears which can also become phobias.  We will name here a mere few from the hundreds that plague humanity:  Agliophobia (fear of pain),  aeroacrophobia (fear of open high places), ailurophoboa (fear of cats), altophobia (fear of heights),  androphophobia (fear of men), soteriophobia(fear of dependence on others), thantophobia (fear of death or dying)!  The fear of death is one of the greatest fears of all of humanity.  No healthy human being wants to contemplate his/her death.  It is a very frightening  thought.  The end of the self.  The fear of being buried in the earth, to be unable to breathe, to no longer have the ability to love, to eat, to enjoy, to be!  Religious sects have created many stories about “life after death.”  This is one possibility of expressing that there is life after death and beliefs that have helped the “true believer” to lessen the fear of the unknown, the finality of the self. The contemplation of nonexistence is extremely difficult to ponder.  The pain that comes with finality is indescribable, and fear stirs in the majority of humanity.  Good deeds that are done frequently come from gathering up points for a “happy life” in the hereafter.  Memorabilia that parents or others give to folk are a means of keeping them remembered in those that live after they have met their demise.  There are stories of rewards and punishments.  To be thrown into the proverbial hell, where the devil meets out appropriate or inappropriate punishment to the so called evildoer is one reason that folk are afraid of not having enough “points” to enter heaven that awaits the righteous, the giver, the doer, the  “Nefesh Chaye,” the good soul, the “do gooder.”

The good Jewish person, the one with the “Lef Tov” (good soul) who does many mitzwot, good deeds, is promised a long life in one of the ten commandments and more.  Religion is a way of giving people a belief that will spell the way a “good” person must handle himself.  It is like the law that spells out what is and is not acceptable.  If a law is ignored, punishment is threatened to follow.  So too it is with religion and religious practices.  It is one way of “showing the way.”   As Jews, we have learned that many of our fears come from experience.  We have a fear that came from harsh, inhumane reality.  Throughout eons of centuries we have become the scapegoats of humanity.  We are a tiny minority whose predecessors have been annihilated through prejudice, hatred, and every sadist that has ever existed and has the urge to kill and maim.  Those of us who are the few survivors of the Holocaust have experienced unimaginable brutalities; our loved ones were annihilated after being beaten, starved, and maimed.  We were treated worse than ferocious animals from killers who considered themselves heroes.  Our fears are real.  Who can ever forget the atrocities that were shown us; lies that were screamed at our brethren without mercy.  The ten commandments were nonexistent in the minds of the Poles, the Germans, and other nationals who took joy in killing innocent G’d fearing human beings.  Jewish fears are real; the fears came about when six million of our innocent Jewish brethren were robbed, beaten, and killed.  “Al Tiro,” “furchte dich nicht” (fear not) were words suggested before the innocent Jewish people were so mercilessly annihilated by the Nazi sadists, the butchers that made up the German population and the Polish ignorant, sadistic butchers. 

As Jews and especially as Holocaust survivors, we understand fears only too well.  They became a reality in our lives.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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