Chesed and Gevurah are not just individual virtues but a transformative pair that recalibrates our spiritual life.. * On Tanya for 13 Elul.
Have you ever wondered why some acts of kindness seem to transform entire rooms, affecting everyone around you? The magnetic power of chesed (kindness) may have something to do with it.
Today's Tanya focuses extensively on the complementary but differing spiritual attributes of chesed and gevurah (strength or restraint). Specifically, it points out how even individuals or schools of thought rooted in one attribute can and should incorporate the other. The text celebrates Beit Hillel's tendency to seek leniency in Jewish law, saying they "would find arguments for leniency in order to render permissible the things prohibited by Beit Shammai." The essence here is that chesed has the power to release things from their "prohibitive bonds," allowing them to ascend to a higher spiritual state.
So what does this teach us? Chesed isn't just about being nice; it's about liberating the latent spiritual potential in yourself and the world around you.
To explore this, let's consider the words of Rabbi Akiva: "Love your neighbor as yourself; this is the great principle of the Torah." In Chassidic thought, love for one's fellow is not just an emotional state but an active force that brings about unity and divine revelation. Rabbi Akiva's teaching thus echoes today's Tanya lesson by stressing the liberating and elevating power of chesed.
So, how does this translate into contemporary life? Chesed is not just a box to check on your list of good deeds. It's a lens through which to view life, a driving force that can elevate the mundane to the extraordinary. When you act with chesed, you don't just make someone's day; you potentially unlock a whole new realm of spiritual goodness, for you and for them. And in these times, as we anticipate the era of Moshiach, what could be more important than uncovering and elevating the hidden sparks of holiness in our world?
As we embrace the transformational power of chesed in our lives, unlocking realms of spiritual goodness, let's not forget that the full spectrum of spiritual growth involves its counterpart—gevurah. Just as chesed can be a lens through which we elevate our world, gevurah, too, serves a crucial role in our spiritual architecture.
While chesed enables us to expand beyond our boundaries, gevurah equips us with the discernment to know when those boundaries are necessary. It's not a mere restraint but a focused energy that adds depth and intention to our actions. As we anticipate the era of Moshiach, let's delve into the oft-misunderstood attribute of gevurah and discover how it can elevate our lives in ways just as profound as chesed.
Ever considered the power of saying no? In a society that often glorifies the boundless, the unlimited, and the all-encompassing, how often do we stop to think about the strength inherent in limitations?
The Tanya for today offers a compelling view of gevurah (strength or restraint), painting it as more than just a counterweight to chesed (kindness). The text insists that gevurah is essential, stating: "a Jew whose soul derives from chesed must also incorporate the thrust of gevurah." The striking idea here is that stringencies stemming from gevurah can prevent an object from being used and thereby elevated. The text posits that being "bound" or "prohibited" can actually serve as a form of elevation—a radical viewpoint in a world that often sees restriction as negative.
So, why should you care? Because gevurah's power isn't about holding you back; it's about catapulting you forward.
To deepen our understanding, we can look at Pirkei Avot: "Who is strong? He who conquers his urges." Here, strength isn't about overpowering others but mastering oneself. This view aligns with chassidic thought, where Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the author of Tanya, describes gevurah as an energy that can be harnessed for constructive purposes.
What does this mean for you today? Consider the importance of boundaries, of saying no when needed, and of using gevurah as a form of spiritual elevation. Just like a dam harnesses the flow of a river to generate electricity, your inner gevurah can harness your natural inclinations to generate a more purposeful, elevated life. This is more than discipline; it's an awakening of inner strength in preparation for the times of Moshiach.