Basics in Kabbalah: Gevurah

The Ten Sefirot: Divine Emanations

 Introduction

Keter
“Crown”

 
Binah
“Understanding”
  Chochmah
“Wisdom”
  Da’at
“Knowledge”
 
 Gevurah
“Might”
  Chesed
“Loving-kindness”
  Tiferet
“Beauty”
 
Hod
“Splendour”
  Netzach
“Victory”
  Yesod
“Foundation”
 

Malchut
“Kingdom”

Gevurah

Gevurah is the fifth of the ten sefirot, and second of the emotive attributes in Creation.

Gevurah appears in the configuration of the sefirot along the left axis, directly beneath binah, and corresponds in the tzelem Elokim to the “left arm.”

Gevurah is associated in the soul with the power to restrain one’s innate urge to bestow goodness upon others, when the recipient of that 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 gevurahwhich allows one to overcome his enemies, be they from 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” ofchesed 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 subsequently apply the complementary principle of “the right arm draws near”).

Ultimately, the might of gevurah becomes the power and forcefulness to implement one’s innate desire of chesed. Only by the power of gevurah is chesed able to penetrate the coarse, opposing surface of reality.

The numerical value of gevurah, 216, is 6 times 6 times 6. The tablets of the covenant that Moses received at Sinai were 6 by 6 by 6 handbreadths. The Torah was given to Moses and Israel from “the Mouth of the Gevurah.” It is most significant that the name of no other sefirah is used by our sages to connote God Himself, other than gevurah (In the Bible, God is referred to as “the netzach[eternity] of Israel” (Samuel 1 15:29), but not as netzach alone). Here, gevurah implies God’s essential power to contract and concentrate His infinite light and strength into the finite letters of Torah (especially those engraved on the tablets of the covenant, the Ten Commandments).

Gevurah = 216 = 3 times 72 (chesed). Each of God’s 72 hidden Names possesses three letters, in all–216 letters. Meaning inheres to words and names. The ultimate “meaning” of every one of God’s Names is His expression of love (chesed) for His Creation. Each Name expresses His love in a unique way. The components of each word and name, the “building blocks” of Creation are the letters which combine to form the words. The letters, “hewn” from the “raw material” of “pro-creation” (the secret of the reshimu, the “impression” of God’s infinite light which remains after the initial act of tzimtzum, “contraction”) reflect God’sgevurah.

The two hands which act together to form all reality, chesed (72) plus gevurah (216) = 288 = 2 times 12 squared. 288 is the number of nitzotzot “fallen sparks” (from the primordial cataclysm of “the breaking of the vessels”) which permeate all of created reality. Through the “dual effort” of chesed and gevurah, not only to form reality, but to rectify reality (through the means of “the left arm repels while the right draws near”), these fallen sparks are redeemed and elevated to return and unite with their ultimate source. In a universal sense, this is the secret of the coming of Mashiach and the resurrection of the dead.

The spiritual state identified in Chassidut as corresponding to the sefirah of gevurah is that of yirah (fear).

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