When Avimelech admonished Avraham for telling him that Sarah was his sister and demanded to know why he had told him that, Avraham answered, “Because I said”: RAK EIN YIRAT ELOKIM BAMAKOM HAZEH, “there is but no fear of G-d in this place…”. (Gen. 20,11) Avraham was afraid that since there is no fear of the Almighty they may kill him and take his wife.
The term RAK EIN YIRAT if translated literally means “there is only no fear”. This implies that there are other things that do exist there. The only thing lacking is fear of the Almighty.
The story is told in the name of Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, the great Talmudic scholar and leader of European Jewry in the last generation who perished in the Holocaust. He explained to his students what Avraham’s answer to Avimelech implied. He did see great things in that land. He saw intellectual development, advanced civilization, and other great progressive growth. The one thing lacking was fear of the Almighty. Without this one component all the rest is meaningless.
Rabbi Wassermann compared that situation to the one in Europe at the time. There was great advanced knowledge and intellectual growth in Germany, but there was a lack of fear of the Almighty. He foresaw where this was leading.
This is a great moral warning. Intelligence and technical progress is not enough. It must be accompanied by ethical growth and commitment.