Psalm 100 says:

עִבְד֣וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה בְּשִׂמְחָ֑ה

Serve God with joy.

Psalm 2 says:

עִבְד֣וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה בְּיִרְאָ֑ה וְ֝גִ֗ילוּ בִּרְעָדָֽה

Serve God with awe/fear; tremble with fright.

How can one do both at the same time?

I suppose one can do both, but it's rare. In my case, as a physicist, I always experienced quite a thrill when I saw that the most complicated things in the world derive from simple equations, simple principles. Understanding the laws of physics and solving intricate problems always had me in awe and made me appreciate how "smart" God is. This is what Einstein called “cosmic religious feeling”. It has to be experienced to be understood. The awe and the joy were indeed there at the same time. However, (1) there was no fear, and (2) I don't see how I was "serving God".

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    Who ever said to do both at the same time??
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 17:27
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    It is actually possible to be fearful and joyful simultaneously. Did you ever ride a roller coaster?
    – DanF
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 17:42
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    Since when do we follow the advice of tehiilim?
    – Lo ani
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 17:44
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    The translation of the word גִ֗ילוּ is incorrect. A better translation is something like "be elated". Which, in a sense, supports my thinking that one can be happy and fearful simultaneously. But, @Loani makes a good point, in that, this can be metaphorical. It is certainly not a commandment nor a suggestion, necessarily.
    – DanF
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 17:44
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    Rabbi Avraham Eliyahu Kaplan has an essay that might answer your question, called בעקבות היראה printed in the book of the same name (see especially the first three pages). He uses the imagery of a father carrying a baby who is happy and also concerned so that the baby doesn't fall
    – b a
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 18:05

2 Answers 2


As a more homiletical than exegetical discourse, this question is presented in the Midrash on Tehilim (ch. 100). IMHO, the fundamental reconciliation is simply that both happiness/joy and fear [of God] should be exercised in one’s service of God.

  • I don’t have Braude’s translation of the Midrash at hand but if a reader does feel free to include it in the post.
    – Oliver
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 18:04
  • Seems to me you are just restating my question. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 18:08
  • @MauriceMizrahi Either you disagree with my understanding of the Midrash (since it wasn’t me who authored that Midrash) or you’re asking not how to reconcile the pesukim but rather for emotional-psychological guidance which, in that case, might be off-topic.
    – Oliver
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 18:17
  • The midrash you quote says: Do both. My question was: HOW do you do both? Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 18:24
  • @MauriceMizrahi So the latter, I see. Do you really think both feelings are mutually exclusive?
    – Oliver
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 18:30

The difficulty arises by misunderstanding the meaning of the word יראה as used in Tehillim.

יראה (Yirah) has a connotation of action or movement, like is found in Tehillim 76:9.

מִ֭שָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁמַ֣עְתָּ דִּ֑ין אֶ֖רֶץ יָֽרְאָ֣ה וְשָׁקָֽטָה׃

From the Heavens judgement is heard, the earth quakes and is silent.

In that context, Tehillim 2:11 translates as, "Serve G-d with action, and rejoice with shaking."

That means the outer expression of your joy as discussed in Tehillim 100:2, is joviality and laughter, even to extent of shaking.

The emphasis being that it isn't enough to simply have happy thoughts, or even to be filled with happy feelings, but to share your happiness externally with those around you through your actions.

  • I really don't understand the basis of all these anonymous down votes to my answer. Is it that people disagree with the dictionary definition of יראה as found in Jastrow (meaning to tremble) quoting Shabbat 88a in the name of Chizkiyah which quotes the line from Tehillim 76:9 that I mention? Or that Sefer Reishit Chochma has the same understanding of the word? Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 20:37
  • Sefaria translates it as: "In heaven You pronounced sentence; the earth was numbed with fright". I personally don't like the term "fear of God", and prefer "being in awe of God", which I believe is ine intent. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 20:54
  • @MauriceMizrahi The Hebrew משמים is not 'In Heaven". The 'Mem' prefix translates as 'from'. 'Numbed with fright' is a translation from someone who doesn't know the simple meaning of words. That simply isn't there in the Hebrew. But your question is about understanding the meaning as presented in Tehillim. That means understanding the common usage of the root as it appears in that context within Tehillim. That's asking a lot in this day and age. (sadly) Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 21:03
  • @MauriceMizrahi Also, דין translates better as judgement, like I translated it. "Sentence" is actually more like גזרה (gazerah). Just to clarify, judgement is about deciding the merit of a particular case. Sentence is the consequence that follows upon the heels of a judgement. Meaning, like do you pay a fine or get sentenced to jail time. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 21:21
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    Can you attribute a source to this explanation? Perhaps, the lack of it is what caused all the downvotes?
    – DanF
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 21:27

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