This is part of a series exploring the seven lower Sephirot (spheres) of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. These spheres are the seven core emotions that drive human interaction.
This week we have been exploring the sephirah of Gevurah, the strength of restraint, boundaries, and restrictions.
boundaries that protect
can also imprison you
restrain your restraint
when the path gets hard
temper your rigid judgment
The week of Gevurah calls us to examine, among other things, our relationship with structure.
For me, it’s a complicated relationship.
I crave structure. And I also resist it at every turn.
I believe rules were made to be broken, yet I adhere to my own rules with what can sometimes be a fierce rigidity that doesn’t always serve me.
This dynamic is pulled into focus with the first three aspects of Gevurah.
Chesed of Gevurah: Creating Space
As I wrote yesterday, one view of Chesed of Gevurah is that it speaks to creating space by actively interfering to remove obstacles that would impede progress.
One way I do this is by creating rules for myself, such as not going online in the mornings or not taking meetings or calls before a certain time.
For me, this structure is essential to creating space for deep work time. Without it, I wouldn’t have a blog and I wouldn’t produce nearly the volume of content that I’ve produced over the past several years.
On the other hand, it’s possible to be too good with setting boundaries.
This is where Gevurah of Gevurah comes in.
Gevurah of Gevurah: Restrain the Restraint
Gevurah of Gevurah has the capacity to be structure devoid of love, which creates rigidity.
Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder understands Gevurah of Gevurah as “restraining the restraint.”
Chesed and Gevurah exist in polarity: giving and receiving. Flow and structure. Gevurah is the temper to Chesed.
Both in the macro and in the micro.
Sometimes our holding back to create space for something to grow on its own terms can be seen as a lack of caring by the one from whom our presence is withheld.
In the metaphor of removing the weeds, we might consider that sometimes the weeds we are trying to remove aren’t weeds at all, but the wildflowers that make the garden beautiful.
The disruptions that threaten our schedule might actually need our attention more than we thought.
The boundaries we set to protect our space might be so strong that they keep us isolated and alone.
As Tony Robbins says,
The walls that protect you, imprison you.
This has been my experience in certain parts of my life.
A Prisoner of My Own Rules
I used to be prolific on social media. A part of the conversation, a presence. It was where I connected with friends, and how clients found me.
But social media can be an interference. In my desire to build my own platform I set a rule that I wouldn’t go on social media until my daily blog was published.
That became a problem when writing for the blog takes up most of my screen time hours and most of my energy. I sacrificed connection for creating content.
The result has been that I’ve felt more isolated and alone, especially since the pandemic started.
I exiled myself in a prison of my rules. Yes, I have a blog with almost 1,800 articles, but my own friends don’t even know what I’m doing
In my efforts to weed out distractions I’ve often kept out connection..
On one hand I’m not sure it was worth it. On the other hand, I’m glad I have this platform where my work can live and be found with ease.
Tiferet of Gevurah: Harmony in Restraint
In this context, the concept of Gevurah of Gevurah as “restraining the restraint” feels resonant. Sometimes it makes sense to relax the rules.
The challenge for me is finding the harmony between the two. This is where Tiferet of Gevurah comes in.
Tiferet is a synthesis and integration of Chesed and Gevurah.
It’s not about finding a static balance, but rather about mediating and modulating them in an active and ongoing conversation.
According to Rabbi Goldfeder, Tiferet of Gevurah guides us to
finding a carefully nuanced expression of restraint within the range of Gevurah.
He calls this the mode of “attentive restraint,” where we are carefully attuning to the situation and adjusting our approach to be both caring and effective.
The objective here is to let people know we care and that we’re holding back for a reason.
What Does This Look Like?
In the context of working with clients or your kids, it might look like giving them space to solve their own conflicts while letting them know you’re here if they need you.
For me and my rules, it might look like sometimes allowing myself to get on social media even before I’ve published my blog. Or at least letting people in so they know where I am and the constraints I’m working within.
Finding Compassion in Judgment
Tiferet of Gevurah can also be translated as compassion in judgement. This also resonates with me and feels important to bring in here.
Many of us have the tendency to jump into judgment when we are not meeting our own expectations.
Maybe I sometimes get too restrictive in my restraint, too rigid in maintaining my boundaries. Maybe I am too good sometimes at creating space. I fall short of my ideal to find that harmony of the space I need for my work and processing my thoughts and ideas and my desire to connect.
But/and/also, judging myself about this serves no productive aim. When I judge myself, I simply become entrapped by resistance to my own actions and decisions.
Judgment keeps me further isolated and hesitant to connect.
Instead, I can temper my self-judgment with self-compassion. I can recognize that I am human. I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have, and with my current capacity for resourcing.
The compassion of Tiferet becomes essential to fuel the action of Netzach, as much research has shown.
Inquiries for Integration
As you look at your own life, it’s important to remember that this is rarely an all or nothing proposition. We can use these Sephirot as a lens on every part of life.
The question is not whether you’re too rigid versus too porous in your boundaries, but where:
- Where are you too rigid in your boundaries?
- Where are you not firm enough?
- Where do you need to mediate better between the two extremes?
Take It Deeper – Live!
Each week during this Omer journey I am hosting a live interactive community gathering.
This is a space for deeper exploration of the week’s theme and how it’s showing up for you. There will be opportunity for connection, sharing, and reflection.
- It’s important to remember here that each of the Sephirot can be translated into many different words, leading to many interpretations. I’m sharing here just one sliver of the possibilities, based on what’s resonating most with me right now. Each week I’m hosting a live call in which I share more insights into the weekly theme and hold space for community sharing and reflection. ↩