Kislev: Yirah/t (יראה/ת) Awestruck, Radical Amazement| Ba’alat Ov

Note: Links to contain affiliate code that allows authors to earn a small commission on purchases.

Table of Contents:

New to Mussar or the Kesharim K’doshim approach? Read the intro first.

by Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet

Hebrew is a very high-context language, which is why translators who have an agenda (or are lazy) too often translate this gorgeous word simply as “fear.”   That’s right, pretty much everywhere in the Torah, whole Tanakh and other scriptures you see “fear” in English – the Hebrew is yirah (יראה).   It really means “awe that induces a sense of wonder/amazement so overwhelming that we are a bit afraid” — like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. In short, being “awestruck.”  (thanks to my husband for that last bit and “awestruck”).

The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD, And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10
translation from

The Hebrew word that is being translated as “fear” is yirah (יראה).  Just imagine if we had all been taught this (including Christians) as “Wisdom begins with AWE of BECOMING (YHVH), and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Changes things doesn’t it? My teach Rav Kohenet Rabbi Jill Hammer taught me years ago that all translators are “liars” – they all have to make choices and generally have some kind of agenda.  Just think about the choice to translate YHVH as “the LORD” instead of something like “Eternal” or “Being” or “Becoming” – all of which are much closer to what YHVH probably means. But I digress.

“AWE IS A human experience of the transcendent piercing apparent reality, a glimpse of the supreme within the mundane. However it may come to us, a moment of awe gives us a small taste of the cosmic mystery, and an intuitive intimation of the divine. Awe does not protest phenomenal reality; rather, it offers direct affirmation of the eternal that lies within the worldly. Awe is an invitation to seek, delivered directly to the heart.” (Alan Morinis, Every Day Holy Day)


That is HUGE. That is why one of my college professors, Kenneth Kurtz, used to hate it when we would say something was “awesome.” It infuriated him.  He would lecture us on diminishing the word. And he was right.

Think I’m exaggerating?  Let’s go to one of my favorite resources: The Merriam Webster Dictionary!

awe: an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary

So it turns out that “awe” is a pretty complex and high context word too, and it’s a really accurate translation of yirah (יראה).

Awe is an invitation to seek, delivered directly to the heart.

(Alan Morinis)

Subscribe to the Cosmic Reference Library to access

Read more of this content when you subscribe to the Cosmic Reference Library today for only $36/year, powered by


Content Weavers

Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet
Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet, founder of Devotaj Sacred Arts, is a maker and teacher of the sacred arts. In 2009, she received ordination as a Kohenet as well as a Celebrant of Becoming, a spiritual community she co-led in Washington DC from 2002-2012. She is the creatix of Kesharim K’doshim Mussar and the Eht/Aht: a netivot wisdom oracle, as well as author of several haggadot and a collection of poetry, prayers, and midrash. Kohenet Ketzirah is also known for her work crafting fiber art and mixed media amulets, altars, and shiviti.  Learn more about her work and creations at, and you can find her regularly on Instagram (@devotaj_arts) and Facebook/devotaj.arts.

Kohenet Alumah Schuster
As Shomerit Eish Lavananh, Guardian of the White Fire, Kohenet Alumah ardently witnesses, and gently guides . She enters, explores, delves and honors the often silent vast expanse of potentiality that exists in the innermost spaces between. Whether that be  the space between bodies as she works as a Hospice Chaplain and end of life doula, or helping to find the wisdom hidden deep inside the body as both a somatic practitioner and yoga instructor, or in the body of Torah as she parses thru the letters and the spaces they inhabit . As a certified aromatherapist her ability to scent and sense space helps her to help others deepen the arc of devotion with both reverent and irreverent methods. Her deep commitment to learning through embodiment and text opens others to remove and drop their outer garments and reveal their inner light, under the skin, revealing the true nature and bringing them ever closer to Self and self.


Dr. Claudia Hall
A Kohenet Initiate (Anticipating Smicha in 2020), Claudia leads a Jewish gathering online and at holidays in her home, works with various progressive and Queer Jewish spaces, and is the grateful parent to an incredible newborn human who makes life a delight. Claudia lives with and is supported by her two partners in St. Louis. A minister of many years before her conversion, she is especially focused on helping those who are attracted to Judaism find a Jewish space to call home. Her most recent work is the Madrichat HaKohanot. is her blog and musing space.

Rav Kohenet Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD
Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion, and the co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.  She is the author of a number of books, including The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for all Seasons, The Omer Calendar of Biblical Women, The Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership (with Taya Shere), and The Book of Earth and Other Mysteries

Her forthcoming book is titled Return to the Place: The Magic, Meditation, and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah.

Rachel Kann
Poet. Performer. Author. Practitioner. Ceremonialist. Seeker, Dancer. Jew. Teacher. Artist.
TEDx Poet Rachel Kann has been featured on Morning Becomes Eclectic on NPR and as The Weather on the podcast phenomenon, Welcome to Night Vale. She’s received accolades from the James Kirkwood Fiction Awards, Writer’s Digest Short-Short Story Awards, LA Weekly Awards, International Poetry Slam Idol and Write Club Los Angeles. She’s performed from The Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe to Disney Concert Hall with people like Marianne Williamson and DaKAH Hip Hop Orchestra. She teaches poetry through UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where she is the 2017 Instructor of the Year. Visit her at

Kohenet Meshachreret Amah
La Comadre (Yaya) is a Liberation Speaker. Coach. Poet. Ritualist. Passionate about justice, equity, and healing, She brings a unique framework to support conscious leadership and collective healing. Revealing the path to healing and a shift in consciousness, recognizing that we all have spheres of influence that impact each other.

Kohenet Bekah Starr
I am a Sacred Artist.
In creating visual art & ritual I weave the magical, mystical, often hidden, wisdom of the Hebrew people, and the Divine Feminine, in a way that allows me to be a translator for you. I use embodied artistic practices to assist us in being present to spiritual moments. 

Amy Wachtel (Tzovah)
Keeper of Sacred Time & Space inna Reggae Jewess Musical & Joyful stylee; Night Nurse pon the radio.

Kohenet Nancy Wolfson-Moche
Kohenet Nancy Wolfson-Moche (Kindler of Sacred Sparks) guides people and communities to awaken, connect and celebrate through transformative embodied practices including soul-to-table cooking, eating and yoga.

One Comment Add yours