Day 9 of the Omer: gevurah within gevurah
April 29, 2008
Image by Pauline Frankenberg, from her series of 49 images for Counting the Omer.
Today is the second day of the second week of the counting of the Omer. According to the kabbalistic framework many of us use to give added meaning to the process, today is gevurah she'b'gevurah -- the day of boundary & discipline within the week of boundary & discipline.
The connotations of gevurah include strength, bravery, limitation, boundary, judgment. Last week was the week of chesed, overflowing lovingkindness. Gevurah is a kind of corrective to that overflowing. It's the sefirah of boundary.
During this morning's tele-davenen, I told a story that's part of the traditional morning service, but which isn't typically a part of our practice: the story of the akedah, the binding of Isaac.
Abraham is associated with the sefirah of chesed, the overflowing love and light that the tradition tells us was the first impulse of creation. Isaac is associated with gevurah, strength and boundary. The akedah is, I think, the perfect illustration of Isaac's gevurah.
You probably know the story. How God called to Abraham, and Abraham said, "hineini," here I am. How God instructed Abraham to take his son, his only one, whom he loved, up to the place where God would show him. How Abraham and Isaac and two servants went forth, and after three days Abraham saw the mountain, and he told the servants to stay put. He tied the wood to Isaac, and carried the fire and knife in his own hand.
And they went up the mountain, and Isaac asked about the lamb for the sacrifice, and Abraham said that God would see to the lamb. And then on top of the mountain Abraham bound Isaac to the altar. This is the quintessence of gevurah, boundary and discipline: Isaac allowed himself to be bound.
And Abraham raised the knife and an angel called out, "Abraham! Abraham!" And Abraham said, again, hineini. And the angel said, don't stretch out your hand against the boy. Look up and see what's right in front of you. And Abraham looked up and saw the ram caught in the thicket, and he sacrificed the ram instead of his son. And he named the mountain Adonai Yir'eh: God Will See.
When Isaac asks about the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham says "God will see to the lamb, my son." Same word, yir'eh. So maybe this story is about trusting that God will see to what's needed, that God will provide. And maybe this story is about learning to see the solutions that are right in front of us. And maybe this story is about submitting ourselves to the boundaries we inhabit, trusting that even if things seem constraining, expansive possibility will appear when we need it most.
Today is the day of strength within strength, boundary squared.
May the part of us that is broken in gevurah she'b'gevurah be healed today.