Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gevurah: Severity/Judgment

Gevurah sits below Binah, across from Chesed, and above Hod in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Most often, it has four paths leading to Binah, Chesed, Tiphereth, and Hod (some Kabblists also draw a path from Gevurah to Chokmah).

Gevurah is the fifth of the ten sefirot (not counting the "hidden" sefira Daath), and second of the "emotive" attributes in Creation.

Wikipedia: "Gevurah is usually understood as God's mode of punishing the wicked and judging humanity in general. It is the foundation of stringency, absolute adherence to the letter of the law, and strict meting out of justice. This stands in constrast to Chesed.

Gevurah is associated in the soul with the power to restrain one's innate urge to bestow goodness upon others, when the recipient of the good is judged to be unworthy and liable to misuse it. As the force which measures and assesses the worthiness of Creation, Gevurah is also referred to in Kabbalah as midat hadin ("the attribute of judgment"). It is the restraining might of Gevurah which allows one to overcome his enemies, be they without or from within (his evil inclination).

Chesed and Gevurah act together to create an inner balance in the soul's approach to the outside world. While the "right arm" of Chesed operates to draw others near, the "left arm" of Gevurah reserves the option of repelling those deemed undeserving. (Even towards those to whom one's initial relation is that of "the left arm repels," one must susequently apply the complementary principle of "the right arm draws near)."


X. Dell said...

Interesting. I had a chance to discuss the nature of the Kaballah with a Talmudic scholar at one of the local universities who told me something that would be seemingly contradictory. It was his interpretation of the Kaballah that led me to believe that giving to one we would normally judge as unworthy (for the reasons you mention) might be God's will.

He gave me this hypothetical example: imagine that a woman has already given her tithe for a worthy cause early in the week, but on Thursday meets a homeless woman who could easily be rehabilitated with not just money, but with shelter (which she also provides) and moral support. Also imagine that a guy has gone the whole week without giving out his tithe. As Shabbas approaches, he sees a ne'er-do-well drunk on the street corner, whom he figures will spend the money on more booze. Despite his better judgment, he gives the tramp his entire tithe, but no more.

The scholar then posed the question of which act of giving was the most holy. I naturally said the first one.

He agreed that woman was indeed acting in good faith, and that her giving was indeed very holy.

But counterintuively, he said that the second act of giving was holier. Why? Because the man was guided not by his own decisions, but because he acted on ritual alone, without his ego or judgment entering into the equation.

In other words, when we make judgments about who is worthy or unworthy, we might be acting contrary to God's will. How do we know, for example, that God's will, for whatever reason, required this man to self-medicate further?

What you say is probably true. I'm just wondering how it relates to that particular lesson I received a few years back when I began to read about the Kaballah and the Talmud. Quite a poser, huh?

Devin said...

Hi Xdell!!
thanks so much for this detailed and wonderful comment and link!!
I find your comment to Gevurah one of the best comments on a topic I have ever seen on any blog ever- man what I would give to talk to an actual Talmudic scholar- and about the Kabbalah no less-

This example that he gave you has a similarity to something that happened in my own life about 2 years ago- in my part of town - well maybe many parts of towns now - sadly- there are quite a few people always asking for change for the "bus" etc. I usually try to give something if i truly have it - as you know for awhile i didnt have my own much less anything else-
one day i was having a bad day and just had enough- and i was actually rude (which is odd for me) to a man who asked for money-
and the thing is - this man seemed more perhaps mentally ill-tho not terribly so - than a typical alccholic/drug user-
cant really say what gave that impression so much -other than i definitely had it especially hours later after he asked me-
i really chastised myself when i got home as just a week before this there had been a man sitting outside the post office (with a beer no less) and a change cup- i had put money in then -
and i was thinking i probably more or less bought that man his next beer - and yet with this other fellow - who actually just maybe - have used it for food/drink
I thought of that "meeting angels unawares" saying and vowed to think things over more in the future before just brushing another human being aside.

I think the example the scholar gave is wonderful -it even reminds me of how many Christians and other religious followers claim to know the mind of God- at least the way they act - and this gentleman apparently left room open for the question "how do we know what God's will is?"

Your comment is definitely more than worthwhile and something for people to think about I think- including myself- would definitely be interested in anything else -if there is anything - you would like to say for this series- I was wondering if I should do a fairly long wrap-up article explaining more and making any possible corrections or clarifications to what will be there by then - will think about that too-

best to you as always my friend and thanks for stopping by!!!!

Devin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.