I have a sweet friend who I visit every Shabbos. Her name is Joan. We sit together and chat about “Jewish Stuff” and then share the blessings of entering Shabbos. During these 7 weeks of Omer we have been talking about the 7 x 7 Sefirot. Well, I do most of the talking (no surprise there), and she offers her smile and laughter and some interesting notions. Here is installment two of the Counting of the Omer. Last week was Hesed, unconditional love. This week is Gevurah.
Gevurah has to do with the Yin/Yang of judgment, and discipline and Authority/Power. Judgment and discipline are tools to be used for growth, but they can be traps that tear down instead of building up. Authority comes from without while Power comes from within. I have been given authority by means of my title Rabbi. But it holds true for other titles such as doctor, or lawyer or President or teacher or police officer. I have always believed that we should ignore authority and yet…
When we accept personal power, responsibility is part of the package. Personal Power requires us to act with good form and deep content. I would tell students that they have every right to disagree with their teachers, parents and Rabbis (except me, of course). That is our right as people of power. BUT and this is a big but… We must treat each other with respect and kindness. I have the right to disagree with the cop who gives me a ticket. I have the right to take it to court. I have the right to stand up for my rights. But I overstep my place of power when I am rude or disrespectful of any human being.
There is a Yin and Yang to Gevurah and we must always be vigilant while dancing in this Sefirah. For that reason, that Sefirah also carries within it the totality of the seven lower Sefirot as we count the Omer.
Hesed within Gevurah
There are times that call for tough love. We have all seen or experienced it. It is tough not only on the receiver but also the giver. It hurts us to be stern with those we love. We would rather things go smoothly, gently. But there are times when tough love is the correct course. Close your eyes for a moment and think of a situation where you have experienced as either giver or receiver of tough love. Looking back, are you grateful? Was Hesed within Gevurah the right path?
My Hesed within Gevurah: Over the past few months I have been going to doctors of every stripe. They have poked and prodded and tested and calculated and given me pills and potions galore. But they have also told me that I need to exercise to lower my blood pressure. My Hesed within Gevurah challenge is to get out there and exercise, take walks daily.
Gevurah within Gevurah
Facing down a foe, standing up to adversity, being strong when there is no strength left, this is the Gevurah within Gevurah, at least, that is how I see it. Of course sometimes the foe is within. Dropping bad habits takes as much courage as standing up to the bullies. Not losing one’s temper when everything inside you screams: “Scream!” this is Gevurah within Gevurah.
My Gevurah within Gevurah: But I don’t want to exercise. I get up in the morning and I have my cup of coffee and my bran but it’s too cold or too windy or I am too tired, I don’t want to go. I need a dose of Gevurah within Gevurah to get me out the door.
Tiferet within Gevurah
Even within that power place, the judgment and discipline room in our hearts there is always room for some balance of beauty. Love can remain in our hearts even during the harshest of times. Balance is what stops us from tripping into the dark side, the Yetzer HaRa side of life. Without that balance the desire for justice becomes the demand for vengeance. But when we can keep our judgment in check balanced even in the worst of times with a little mercy, then we have found that beauty, Tiferet abounds. That is, for me, Tiferet within Gevurah.
My Tiferet within Gevurah: I had trouble coming up with something for this one. I turned to Joan and asked: “How does this fit in with my need for exercise?” Joan who does not share a lot verbally surprised me with a response. “Don’t ask me,” she exclaimed. And she is right. My exercise challenge has to find its beauty and balance. I am the only one who can do that. I cannot turn to others. I must look into my Hesed place and steel myself with Gevurah. Then, as it says in the morning prayers, I must gird my loins and go. That Gevuah leaning balance is Tiferet within Gevurah.
Our theories and armchair strategies are nice but the real work is in the action. Many years ago I had a friend who looked into the chasm then at the other side and smiled and said: “Doing it makes it happen!” And then he leapt across. We can talk about the discipline and the judgment but that is not enough. We must act upon it. “Doing it makes it happen” is Netzah within Gevurah.
My Netzah within Gevurah: “Doing it makes it happen!” If I am going to create for myself a regimen of exercise, I have to reach a point where I stop thinking about it and open the door. Everyday, I must open the door and head out. I step out the door and start heading for my walk and enter the Sefirah of Netzah within Gevurah.
Hod within Gevurah
Even within the toughness of Gevurah there needs to be a time for self-reflection for ceasing the doing and seeing the being. Even the Lone Ranger needed to sit with his friend Tonto and reflect on the good that they were doing and to take time to re-adjust their sights. We all need a time to step back and judge our judgment, to see without blinders, just to be in Hod within Gevurah.
My Hod within Gevurah: There is a certain pride in accomplishment. When I come home from my walk, my heart rate raised appropriately, I think back on other walks. When I was a kid I would roam the forests of Indiana in the early morning. In college I would go for hikes that became unplanned camping trips that challenged my ability to make shelter and find food. When I was young I would take morning constitutionals with my grandfather that were so wonderful. The walks with my father through the forests near our home or on the beaches of Narraganset touched my soul. Those moments of memory that elevate today’s hike for health are a light for my soul. They are my Hod within Gevurah.
Yesod within Gevurah
After the doing and being, after the balancing and charging the canons of complacency, we need to internalize our Gevurah self. If Gevurah does not come from within, then it isn’t real and it does not have the staying power that we need. We need to seek the Gevurah within, the Yesod within Gevurah.
My Yesod within Gevurah: And when I stretch after hiking and muse in memory and smile with pride in accomplishment no matter how small, I begin the process of bringing the hikes, the exercise into my soul. With time I will have internalized the process, the walks will find a place within my Yesod within Gevurah.
Malchut within Gevurah
We have climbed down the Seforitic tree of life within Gevurah. Now that we have made sure that our Gevurah is real and seated in our heart place, balanced, action packed yet thoughtful, now is the time to wear it in public. It is not a costume but part of our whole. We don Malchut within Gevurah.
My Malchut within Gevurah: Now I naturally head downstairs and for the door every morning. I grab my water bottle and my Mateh (walking staff) and out the door I go. The process has become part and parcel of who and what I am. I am, once again, a hiker, a walker of walks. And this state of being and doing from inside out has a name: Malchut within Gevurah.
My stories, your stories, stories of life and living consciously
water our Sefirotic Tree, our Tree of life.
(Originally posted at Rocky Mountain HAI)