did anyone ever know more about endurance in judgement than Elijah the prophet? the one who thought that only 7000 faithful remained in Israel after the spiritual destruction brought about by ahab and jezebel. who challenged all the prophets of foreign gods to a contest of sacrifices. the one who taunted all the prophets of baal to do their best to offer up a burnt offering, and when nothing happened, he taunted them–
“…perhaps your god is sleeping? talk louder. maybe he went for a walk. maybe he is busy. don’t give up. cry out louder…try again.”
utterly fearless, with the spritual crust of 10 pies, Elijah then took it up a notch. before calling for G’d to send down a consuming flame on the sacrifice he was offering, he soaked the offering and the wood that was to burn with water! then “answer me, answer me, G’d, answer me….” and a tremendous fire came down out of the heavens and consumed the offering completely, and the altar, and the water in the vessels. and all the People and the evil king ahab repented…….NOW that’s netzach in gevurah, that’s victory in judgement, right?
uh, no. the repentence did not persist….it lacked netzach. and the People returned to the worship of baal, for it was the way they grew up. it was all around them. gevurah is hard! worship of baal required only the comforting traditions of self-mutilation maybe some tattooing, some miscellaneous piercings, etc. though Elijah won a flashy battle, he lost the war against pop culture in his day.
he only learned true netzach and true gevurah later in a vision. he was told to go out of his cave dwelling to watch G’d pass. great tumult will come, great storm…..but G’d will not be in the mountain-shattering wind, he will not be in the earthquake that will follow…he will not be in the fires that will follow….G’d will be in:
“a still small voice”
today we are tempted again(!) by cuttings and peircings and tattoos….we have the constant hubbub of cell phones and even cars that talk back! television in the background…hundreds of channels! earbuds to the right and left instead of chesed and gevurah, netzach and hod….there is no middle way in the clamor for eyes and ears.
HEAR ISRAEL…but how if our world just won’t shut up?
Elijah ultimately learned that it ain’t the clamorous and the flashy that marks the Holy One. it is the silence. and netzach in gevurah brings the tools to us: endurance from netzach and restraint from gevurah. sometimes we have to practice a great severity…silence…to gain the victory. there is a kind of fast, the ta’anit dibur, that requires that we not give up food and drink, but that we give up speech…give up gab…give up gossip…give up mission statements, give up powerpoint, and go off message.
hitbodedut is centered in the restraint of our will to clamor. meditation and prayer require that we endure in a state that is not our default mode. netzach in gevurah. try a little silence. read some difficult passages in Torah and focus. do not discuss them. just silence for a while to find that still small voice.
mussar for netzach she b’gevurah
netzach-gevurah with another….bein adam l’chaveiro relationships will hit a hard patch now and then. endurance and restraint are crucial. if you are in a bad patch with someone now, just try to see the long-term view.
netzach-gevurah with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo vices. the things we make habit of that do us no good. we are to walk humbly with G’d, not direct our feet in the unthinking ways of habit. this one is easy to see; hard, hard, hard to do. give up a bad habit. sweets or cigs or red meat or mindless buying, maybe. give up TV for a while….do the unaccustomed. or just be silent for a day.
kabbalah for netzach she b’gevurah
in assiyah….the world of doing/completion we have mentioned that the root meaning of ‘pesach’ isn’t to ‘pass [over]’ but to leap, or skip [over]. there is energy in the endurance of netzach. it took netzach in trust for Nachshon ben Aminadav to take that leap into the substrate of the Sea. where is your enduring energy? remember a time when you used it to overcome a problem.
in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation we all meet our match in some areas….sometimes regularly. we just can’t seem to overome some challenges, it seems. the harder it seems, the more netzach in gevurah comes to our aid. consider how you can extend the endurance that you know you have to meet a challenge with which you’ve not yet equaled. can you use judgement to find a way to extend it so that you become up to the challenge?
in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation we are taught that everything is in Torah, and that if we simply turn it and turn it, we will find understandings that have eluded us in the past. choose a matriarch’s story and consider how her wisdom/judgement helped her to persevere in the face of her challenges. can her example teach you?
in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition baruch haShem that we have the seder every year to teach us lessons of revolution, of trust and faith, of courage, of obedience, of G’d’s desire that we should be free of what enslaves us. consider this snippet of a piece by gil scott-heron from the very end of the 60s:
“the revolution will not be right back after a message/bout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people/ you will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom/ a tiger in your tank or the giant in your toilet bowl/ the revolution will not go better with coke/ the revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath….the revolution will not be televised…the revolution will be no re-run brothers/ the revolution will be live.”
have you made the revolution that is the exodus live for you this year?
kinyan 11 of 48 ways to acquire Torah
Yishuv b’Mikra….Settling in with Deliberation. to master Torah, you must be able to silence the distractions that surround you, and the distractions you yourself create in your own mind. Torah can be hard when you have not settled in and have not settled your mind to open to the task of hearing, truly hearing what possibilities are leaping from the page. sometimes Torah study is less an activity of mind than of what the zen practitioner might call ‘cloud mind’….a mind that is not going down a path, but that forms and dissolves, moving in the winds of the study itself. one meditates in Torah……
‘but his delight is in the Torah of G’d; and in G’d’s Torah he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2)