of gevurah: sefirat haShavua 2

 “the mitzvot were declared unto Moshe at Sinai from the Mouth of the Gevurah”

we find this in Talmud, Makkot 23b. and it isn’t all that difficult to imagine, actually. read again in Deuteronomy 18:15ff wherein Moshe lets the People know that he will raise up prophets from amongst them.  why? well, we asked for it. we wanted to hear from prophets and not directly from the Voice of G’d because the voice and fire were to great for their minds to bear:

“…can no longer hear…this great fire i can no longer see…”

and we find this memorably supported in the words of one of those post-mosaic prophets, Jeremiah (23:29), who relates “is not my word like fire and like a hammer that breaks the rock into bits.”  the Zohar (2:127b) relates this gevurah-released flame as the left-sided flow of the second day of Creation (gevurah is the 2nd sefirah in the lower 7 after all, and maps to day 2) which made a division between the flow of chesed and gevurah…the division of the waters. between which will emerge the dry land…..not all that distant from the image of the waters parted to allow the escape of the Israelites!

within the notion of  division there is something very important to us in our spirit lives. so very much of the spiritual  way is devoted to the right-side, the side of overflowing love and compassion and victory and One-ness; the left side  is ‘left’ to its ultimate association with the roman ‘sinister’ and all that has come therefrom. but gevurah is also the bedrock of technology (i know, that clearly doesn’t strip away the sinister issue, but it certainly plays pretty dang heavily into the modern menuchah of comfort and cozy, which isn’t all bad either!).

with fire and hammer humankind has made its world and made it vastly better for many. many these days will demonstrate out of compassion for the world that seems under assault from human technology. the distinction making that is science is a double-edged sword when expressed in technology. and we would be foolish not to recognize the basic truth that our original purpose as described in Torah was to tend the garden of Eden as a steward and not as master consumer.  even in Eden, after all, there were strict limits on what was to be eaten….so  i wonder why it is that so few seem to recognize that you need a hammer to beat out either a sword or a plowshare…or even to repurpose the former into the latter.  and neither will happen without the fire that makes malleable out of rigid.

and the most anti-technology folk among us do not seem to recognize that technology is a natural outflow of our chesed much of the time. we have always, from the time of Adam Rishon, known how to discriminate between things and classify them (Genesis 2:19). G’d knew what we were good at….he knew our ‘strength’ (gevurah is strength in hebrew).

but the need for constraint, for restraint, goes well beyond human technology. G’d created the world with chesed, but the space needed for existence required the famous kabbalistic tzimtzum…the constraint imposed by G’d on G’d’s own infinite extent.  G’d made/makes space from within to allow for that which is not wholly divine in its parts. initially it was G’d’s will to create by way of gevurah (Pesikta Rabbati 40)… by way of justice, power, strength, but also constraint and restraint and tzimtzum (contraction).

so even as we acknowledge that G’d is love and singular (ahavah and echad are equal), Creation (and we take full part in that) is to be channeled in the divine directioning of gevurah. as Torah is a teaching, it is of necessity full of distinctions that we are to be mindful of. distinctions that form morality in the world…the same formed morality that leads many to distinguish ‘natural’ from ‘technological’ and to go on to label one as good and the other as bad.

mindful distinction makes light more powerful and capable of better focus (and greater power) in laser. mindful distinction is also the core of morality that know that murder is wrong, but that it is capable of shades of grey.

it is gevurah that george zimmerman is being brought up on charges of murder.  now we will find out the truth and act as is appropriate.

as chesed is associated with the way of Avraham Avinu, so is gevurah associated with Yitzchak, the son who was bound and almost killed and offered up by the Baal Chesed.  do we not all agree that justice was served by stopping the hand of chesed in this case?

the fateful tree in Eden was of the knowledge of both chesed and gevurah, both good and evil, both of which in combination produced the fruit that so drew Chavah and Adam.  it is important to remember that neither side of this tree was grafted onto the other, but that they grow together, as they must in humans as well.  and we must grow out of both together in our spirits. there is after ‘a time for every purpose under heaven’:

a time to plant and a time to reap

and in the case of sefirat haOmer, we begin with the reaping of the Omer of barley, then grow and ripen the wheat during the counting of the sefirah, ending in the reaping of the new wheat. and this week we turn, turn, turn to the sefirah of gevurah, and the actions of the other 7 in justice, power, and constraint.

so, what do you think?

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