Gevurah is also a multi-faceted word. It can mean strong, powerful, and heroic. The Talmud understands it as the most apropos word to use when describing God’s ability to provide rain!
The meaning that most encapsulates all other meanings is that it is the power to impose limitations. It says, “The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”
In the course of daily living, one thinks of will power.
The concept of will power has been demoted from the ethical hierarchy over the past few years, as tens of millions of Americans fail miserably at their various and sundry diets. And in this past generation, everyone has been told that the behaviors that people were told to control through will power, are now understood to be innate and inherent. Resistance is futile.
Yet there is no escaping the fact that a life of love and no limitations ends up in destruction. It feels good for those first delightful few hours. But life craves creative limits. I can think of so many examples of how limitlessness has harmed the human race.
Dr David Pelcovitz, a renowned psychologist in the Jewish community, has cited significant studies and surveys that demonstrate conclusively that limits are one of the things that children and teenagers crave most. This sounds counter-intuitive. Kids seem to convey to their parents and teachers that they want a big free-for-all of eating all the junk food in the world and then staying up to all hours of the night. Yet in their moments of clarity and honesty, they really don’t want to live like that. They crave “gevurah”.
Gevurah does not have to be a wholly negative experience. In fact, as we covered in “Chesed Part II”, real Gevurah is an outgrowth of Kindness. And Gevurah can be expressed in kindness as well.
For example, imagine a scenario in which a child wants something. One of the main goals of parenting, or any ethical training, is gevurah. You can mold that sense of discipline by believing, and then relating, that you want to give him that something, and will, when some form of reasonable act “x” is accomplished. It doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, something epiclike in difficulty. Just enough to flex a discipline / cause-and-effect muscle.
In the diet world, cravings that lead to failure often follow a time of silly deprivation. The discipline would have been strengthened had there been a context of being well-fed from diet-approved. Hunger will kill a diet every time.