The Book of Zohar. Chapter “The First Commandment” (abridged)
189. BERESHEET BARAH ELOKIM (In the beginning the Creator created) is the first commandment, the root and foundation of all creation, called “fear of the Creator” or RESHEET (beginning), as it is written: “Fear of the Creator is the beginning of wisdom.” It is also written, “Fear of the Creator is the beginning of knowledge,” for this fear is called “the beginning.” And it is the gate (the first property) that leads to faith (the property of bestowal). And this Mitzva (law of the universe) is the foundation of the whole world (all other laws are derived from it).
190. There are three types of fear, two of which have no real basis, but one does. If man fears that his children may die, or fears illness or bodily suffering, or fears for his material well-being, this kind of fear (even if constant) is not the basis or root, for only desirable consequences constitute the cause of fear. This is called “the fear of punishment in this world.” But there is also another type of fear: the fear of punishment in the world to come, in hell. These two types of fear – the fear of punishment in this world and in the world to come – do not constitute true fear.
191. The true fear is the fear of the Creator, for He is great and almighty, for He is the Source of everything, and all else is nothing compared to Him. Man should concentrate all his attention on attaining this kind of fear.
192. Rabbi Shimon started to weep, wailing, “Woe if I reveal and woe if I do not reveal: If I reveal the means of attaining fear, the sinners will know how to work for the Creator for their own sake (without exiting their egoism, and hence they won’t correct themselves). And if I do not say how to attain fear of the Creator, it will not reach my friends (those who do wish to exit their egoism). Wherever there is true fear (which allows one to act above one’s egoism, not for his own sake), opposite it and correspondingly below stands an evil fear, which strikes and prosecutes. It is the scourge that whips the sinners (punishing them for their sins. This is why he is afraid to reveal it, for the sinners may learn how to avoid punishment, and punishment constitutes their correction).
193. But he who fears the punishment by whippings, the true fear of the Creator cannot descend upon him. Instead, evil fear overtakes him in the form of fearing punishment by whipping.
194. Therefore, the place that is named “fear of the Creator” is called the beginning of knowledge. This is why this Commandment is included here. And it is the foundation and source of all the other Commandments of the Torah. And whoever observes the Commandment of fear of the Creator, thereby observes all the others. But he who does not observe the Commandment of fear of the Creator, does not observe the other Commandments of the Torah, for this Commandment constitutes the foundation for all the others.
195. Therefore, it is written, “IN THE BEGINNING” (signifying fear) THE CREATOR CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. For whoever transgresses FEAR, transgresses all of the Torah’s Commandments (laws of the Upper World, which are based upon bestowal). And his punishment is the evil scourge – the evil fear that whips him. Further in the Torah, the words, “AND THE EARTH WAS UNFORMED AND CHAOTIC, AND DARKNESS WAS UPON THE FACE OF THE DEEP, AND THE SPIRIT OF THE CREATOR” refer to the four punishments of the wicked.
196. WITHOUT FORM refers to strangulation. CHAOTIC refers to stoning – the stones that fall into the great deep to punish the sinners. DARKNESS signifies burning. THE SPIRIT OF THE CREATOR refers to beheading.
197. The spirit of the Creator means beheading, for the scorching wind (Ruach Se’ara) is a flaming sword – punishment for whoever does not observe the Torah and Commandments that are mentioned after the Commandment of fear, called “foundation,” as it includes all the Commandments. This is because after the word BERESHEET (BEGINNING), which signifies fear, and further it is written WITHOUT FORM, CHAOS, DARKNESS and SPIRIT – the four penalties of death.