Geburah: The Rigour

Geburah (גבורה, lit. ‘strength’) sometimes also written Gevurah, is the fifth sephirah of the cabalistic tree of life, and is the second of the emotional attributes of the sephirot. Located below Binah, facing Chesed, and above Hod, Gevurah is “the essence of judgment and imitation”, it corresponds to the ability to impress and the element of fire.

Gevurah is the fifth Sefirot, and second emotional attribute of Creation, and corresponds to the second day (Zohar 2, 127b). In Bahir it is said: “What is the fifth ( enunciation)? The fifth is the great fire of GOD, of which it is said: “I no longer wish to see this great fire, lest I die” (Dt 18, 16). This is the left hand of GOD”.

Gevurah is understood as GOD’s way of punishing the wicked and of judging humanity in general, the foundation of rigor, of absolute adherence to the letter of the law and of strict respect for justice.

Thus we speak of GOD’s primary ways of acting as Chesed’s goodness and irresponsibility, against Gevurah’s rigor and severe responsibility, is in fact called “power” because of the power of GOD’s absolute judgment.

Gevurah is associated in the soul with the power to retain one’s innate impulse to give good to others indiscriminately, even when the recipient of that good is considered unworthy and capable of abusing it. As a force that measures and evaluates the value of Creation, Gevurah is also referred to in the Kabbalah as “Midat Hadin” (“the attribute of judgment”).

Chesed and Gevurah act together to create an inner balance in the soul’s approach to the outside world. While Chesed’s “right arm” works to bring others closer, Gevurah’s “left arm” reserves the right to reject those deemed undeserving. (Even towards those to whom the initial relationship is that of the “left arm that rejects”, the complementary principle “of the right arm that approaches” must be subsequently applied).

Ultimately, Gevurah’s power becomes the power and strength to realize Chesed’s innate desire. Only with the power of Gevurah Chesed is he able to penetrate the opposite surface of reality. Baal Shem Tov discusses Gevurah’s ability to perform the divine retreat (Tzimtzum), which in turn creates Chesed’s potential in creation.

Gevurah appears in the Sefirot configuration along the left axis, directly below Binah, and corresponds in the tzelem Elokim to the “left arm”.