|A series brought to you by Secrets My Grandmother Told Me: A Wisdom School|
And so the countdown began on the second day of Pesach, counting 49 days, a journey of seven full weeks…
Gevurah – Discernment
by Kohenet Ruach D’vorah Grenn, Ph.D
In the second week of our journey, we engage with the sefirah (attribute) of Gevurah (discernment, strength).
I used to see this sefirah on the Tree of Life and never liked it. It meant judgment, and I already had judgmental people in my life; why would I invite an attribute or try to develop one within myself which perpetuated this trait? I later learned it also meant boundaries so I liked it even less, since I don’t like having limits put on my activities or speech (although I do appreciate deadlines when they light a fire under me to get my writing done!) I vaguely knew Gevurah also meant strength, but that recognition was probably clouded over by the definitions I didn’t like.
When I began studying with Reb Nadya nine years ago in her Wisdom School, I started to explore all the sefirot more deeply. I started working with a parchment-like scroll to record where and how each sefirah lived in me, beyond the traditional descriptions, as she encouraged us to do. I learned through her teachings and our readings that Gevurah also meant justice and discernment, and that reframing made a huge difference to me.
These were not loaded words to me; strength, justice and discernment are things I strive to apply in my own life daily. Discernment was a process I had started to hone in grad school, and justice was a quality my parents raised me to embody and seek.
Over the last 25 years, I also learned how necessary and healthy it was to apply Gevurah’s boundaries in relationship, especially the need to strengthen our Gevurah when our Chesed (loving-kindness) runs too freely, when it overflows away from us, unconstrained, and so depletes us.
I now teach other women the importance of establishing self-protective boundaries, about the need to set limits not only to cordon off those who would do them harm but from those who drain their energies, who don’t see, believe or hear them.
Gevurah’s discernment is vital when we are deciding what work we want to do and who we want to do it with. Thoughtful discernment enables us to do our work effectively, whether it is the work of creating and supporting family, earning a living, maintaining a balanced wholeness in ourselves, or being part of a thriving workplace or community; it helps us to evaluate whether our daily actions and words are aligned with our deepest values.
Strength, another aspect of Gevurah is of course foundational, a trait we seek and need in spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional areas.
I can now say that I have a much more comfortable relationship with Gevurah. I certainly admire and hope I embody strength; I value justice, discernment and the importance of boundaries and (self-imposed) restraint. And when applied properly—without one seeking dominance or power-over others, when it’s part of a thoughtful process, not punitive or mocking—I respect the role judgment can play in our lives.
MY QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK:
- Give your inner critic the week off.
- Is there a relationship in which you feel you need stronger boundaries? Is there a situation or relationship in which you feel you need to make them more permeable or flexible?
- What situation or decision requires your discernment right now?
- Do you see a difference between discernment and judgment? If so, what is it?
- Is there a time when you have judged another too harshly or felt that you were judged too harshly or unfairly?
- Think of a time you could have shown more restraint; how would you handle that situation now?