Gvurot Geshamim - Eikev
וְהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ אֶרֶץ הָרִים וּבְקָעֹת לִמְטַר הַשָּׁמַיִם תִּשְׁתֶּה מָּיִם. אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱ-לֹקֶיךָ דֹּרֵשׁ אֹתָהּ תָּמִיד עֵינֵי ה' אֱ-לֹקֶיךָ בָּהּ מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה. וְהָיָה אִם שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל מִצְוֹתַי אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם לְאַהֲבָה אֶת ה' אֱ-לֹקֵיכֶם וּלְעָבְדוֹ בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁכֶם. וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ. (דברים יא, יא-יד).
The punishment of the נחש for the sin of the עץ הדעת was וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ. Rebi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and HaRav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk ask “What kind of a punishment is that?” Take a look around you – everywhere there is sand! If the snake’s food is sand, then HKB”H was effectively telling the snake – “Your curse is that you will never lack for food?” How is that a curse? So they explain that the curse is davka that he never lacks for food. Since he never lacks for food, he never needs to ask HKB”H for food and since he never needs to ask, there is no relationship between the snake and HKB”H.
It is like the mashal of a king who had a son and begrudged him nothing. As the son grew he rebelled against his father, who rebuked him, but to no avail. The king summoned one of his closest ministers and told him to make sure that the son would lack for nothing. The minister was surprised and asked the king why he was being so good to the son who had rejected him? The king replied that all the while that his son loved him, he would come to the palace to ask his father for things and the king was pleased to see him. However now that he had sinned against his father, the king wanted to make sure that the son would no longer come to the palace and ask for anything so that the king would not have to see his face at all.
As Am Yisrael are about to enter Eretz Yisrael, Moshe tells them that Eretz Yisrael is not like Egypt - אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע אֶת זַרְעֲךָ וְהִשְׁקִיתָ בְרַגְלְךָ כְּגַן הַיָּרָק. Egypt is so fertile, that growing food there is effortless! Eretz Yisrael on the other hand is dependent on rainfall and to merit rain we have to have an intimate relationship with HKB”H and constantly daven for rain.
In this shiur I would like to explore a principle from the Zohar Hakadosh, explained in Meir Panim, called Gvurot Geshamim.
The Korban Lechem Hapanim is a conduit, a pipeline that channels the שפע העליון from Heaven and distributes it throughout the world. To conceptualize the extent of the שפע העליון, imagine the local branch of your bank. How much cash do they have in that branch, a few million perhaps? Now take all the branches of that bank in the whole country together. How many hundreds of millions is that? Now take all the branches of all the different banks in the entire world! How many trilllions is that? Add to that all the gold in Fort Knox, all the precious stones in all the diamond exchanges throughout the world, all the gold still in the ground, the diamonds still in the ground all over the globe, all the oil and gas reserves, all the wheat fields in Kansas, Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Australia, every water resource in Scandinavia and all over the world, all the fruit, the vegetables, the famous paintings – the entire sum total of all the material wealth on the planet! Then multiply all that by 1099 and you will still not have begun to scratch the surface of the שפע העליון.
In Meir Panim I explore the true meaning of “wealth”. It is expressed by two concepts that are (not surprisingly) related to one another – סוד הנוקבא, the secret of procreation and גבורות גשמים, the secret of rain.
There is only one form of true wealth and that is – children! When HKB”H gave Adam Harishon his first commandment פרו ורבו, it also embodied a gift of wealth that was immortal. There is a famous saying “You cannot take it with you”. It does not matter how much money a tycoon makes while he is alive, when he dies, to him that money is now valueless, it no longer has any benefit for him now that he is dead. However, leaving behind offspring that continue in the ways of their fathers has benefit to the neshama of a person even after he dies. This is the concept of ilui neshama. That is the only form of true wealth because it persists even after death.
The second type of wealth, which is of a lower status than the above, is material wealth and the highest form of this type of wealth is rain. Just to prove how much more valuable rain is than money, we need go back only two weeks to the story of Marta bat Baitus, from the stories of the churban, in masechet Gittin (56a).
Marta bat Baitus was the richest woman in Yerushalayim. She sent her servant to the market to buy some “solet” (semolina) flour to bake bread. The servant returned to say that there was no more solet and all that was left was white flour. So Marta sent him back to buy the white flour. When the servant got back to the market, the white flour also was gone. The servant returned to tell her that the white flour was gone, but there was dark flour. She sent him back to buy the dark flour, but when he returned to the market, even the dark flour was gone. The servant yet again returned to tell her that the only flour left was barley flour. Marta sent him back to buy the barley flour, but by the time he got back the barley was also gone. So Marta said “I will go myself and see what I can find to eat”. So she took off her sandals and left her house barefoot. As she was walking in the street, she stepped in some cow dung. Because she was so delicate, she died from the disgust of it. Another opinion says that she died from eating the dried figs of Rebi Tzadok. Rebi Tzadok had been praying and fasting for 40 years to try prevent the churban and he was so thin that whatever he ate, you could see it going down. After his fasts, they would bring him figs and he would suck the juice out of the figs and throw away the outer shells. As Marta was dying she took out all her money and threw it in the air in the market exclaiming “What good did all this money do me?”
When there is no food, money is worthless. The only time money has value is when it has purchasing power, if there is no food to eat, people cannot eat coins, they cannot eat $100 bills or Da Vinci paintings. The source of ALL food is from rain. If there is no rain, there is no plant matter – no grains, no legumes, no fruit, no vegetables. There is also no meat – no grass/fodder for the animals to eat, no animals. If the rain stops, there is no life and all the material wealth in the world is as valueless as sand!
Not surprisingly, HKB”H is the key “player” in both the above forms of wealth – creating life (children) and sustaining life (rain) and both follow a similar pattern, as explained in the Zohar Hakadosh (חלק ב, קנ"ד, ע"ב).
In order to understand the mechanism, a short introduction is required to explain the relevant pair of two (out of ten) of the Sfirot.
The Ten Sfirot is a Kabbalistic concept that defines a set of “filters”. The Divine light of HKB”H cannot exist in its purest form in a physical object in this world. In order to coexist with a material form, this Divine light has to be “reduced” in “intensity” through a series of ten “filters”, each with a unique set of attributes, that together, as a whole, reflect the essence of HKB”H.
One of the pairs in the Ten Sfirot is Gvura/Chessed. Gvura is associated with the male and Chessed with the female. The male characteristic of Gvura is typified by physical strength, ambition, חכמה, etc. amongst others. The female characteristic of Chessed is typified by mercy, gentleness, sensitivity, etc. amongst others.
The Ten Sfirot are associated with parts of the body. According to this association, Gvura corresponds to the left arm while Chessed corresponds to the right arm. Gvura/Chessed are not mutually exclusive – they are symbiotic and complement each other. It is the interaction between these two attributes that results in the two forms of wealth mentioned above.
According to the Zohar the process is first initiated by the right side – Chessed which is the origin of simcha. The right hand attribute of Chessed then transfers this simcha to the left hand attribute of Gvura. The simcha from the right/Chessed, mingles with the left/Gvura, which is the origin of חכמה. The חכמה of the left/Gvura enhances this simcha, which now becomes a mixture of חסד and חכמה. This enhanced simcha is then passed back to the right/Chessed and awakens the נוקבא in its joy. It starts with the right, is passed to the left where it is enhanced and then passed back to the right.
This is symbolized by נטילת ידיים. The process begins in the right hand. The cup in the right hand is filled with water. The cup with the water is then passed to the left hand, which then pours the water on the right hand. The right hand is the first one to have water poured on it, by the left hand. However the left hand first received the water from the right hand.
This is the underlying principle of procreation. והמבין יבין.
It is also the underlying principle of rain. At face value, rain seems to emanate from Gvura, a powerful rainstorm with thunder and lightning are reminiscent of Gvura. However that is not how it works. Rain in fact originates from the right, from Chessed, the source of simcha. Rain is not power, it is Chessed, a great mercy that HKB”H does for us. Rain originates from מידת הרחמים, from Chessed, that is its source. However for it to materialize it needs to involve the forces of Gvura to be able to manifest in a physical form as raindrops.
This is why we daven for rain on Shmini Atzeret, immediately after Sukkot. Both Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret are called זמן שמחתנו. The source of rain begins with שמחה. When we serve HKB”H with שמחה, by braving the elements and leaving the security of our homes to dwell in a Sukkah for seven days, we activate the attribute of Chessed, מידת הרחמים, which is the raison d’etre of rainfall.
What a profound lesson! To merit HKB”H’s Chessed and מידת הרחמים, the prerequisite is simcha! When this Chessed is then intermingled with Gvura , the חכמה of the Torah, HKB”H showers us with ברכה and abundance from the שפע העליון.
This is also the secret of the Shulchan and the Lechem Hapanim. It all begins with שמחה which originates with Chessed on the right (This is why the Shulchan is located on the right/northern side of the Heichal and why the new/fresh loaves are introduced to the Shulchan from the right). This simcha mingles with the Gvura, the Shulchan. The Shulchan is the “power”, the tree that bears the fruit which is the Lechem Hapanim. The Lechem Hapanim is an intermingling of the simcha from the right and the Gvura/חכמה from the left. This why the Lechem Hapanim physically resembles a smile and spiritually symbolizes the Middot of the Torah. Through this intermingling of the Gvura/Chessed, the world merits שפע through the Korban Lechem Hapanim.
Eretz Yisrael is not like other countries in the world. We have no Nile to overflow its banks, we have no glaciers to melt and fill the rivers and streams. These phenomena are indigenous to countries with which HKB”H does not want a close relationship. In Eretz Yisrael, HKB”H wants a close relationship with us, He wants us to frequent the palace and constantly ask Him for sustenance. He wants to see our smiling faces, as often as possible!
The origin of rain is in Chessed, מידת הרחמים, not in Gvura. If we think we can solve Eretz Yisrael’s water resource problems with Gvura alone, like desalination, we are sorely mistaken. Rain does require an element of Gvura, כוחי ועוצם ידי. Relying solely on כוחי ועוצם ידי however, is equivalent to saying to HKB”H – “We do not want a close relationship with you. We want to take care of ourselves, stay out of our business!” Not surprisingly the philosophy that thinks desalination is the answer to all our problems is the same misguided philosophy that thinks Israel should be like all other nations. It is a fundamental lack of understanding of the reality of the Creation.
If we want prodigious rainfall, we do need an element of Gvura, the element of חכמה of the Torah. But, above all, we need to have simcha and crave a close connection with HKB”H. Then we will get more rain than we can handle! We will have an abundance of food, more than we can handle and our money will have value!
Similarly for anyone who is being challenged with bearing children. If one thinks that only כוחי ועוצם ידי alone can solve the problem, medical science and fertility treatment, the Torah comes to teach us that this is not the real solution. It is part of the solution - the element of Gvura is part of the symbiosis that is essential to סוד הנוקבא. However the true and only solution is an intermingling of Chessed with Gvura. HKB”H wants our tfilot, He wants as close a relationship as possible with Him. HKB”H “craves” the tfilot of tzaddikim, who serve Him בשמחה. This is why He tests davka the tzaddikim with these issues, just like Avraham/Sarah, Yitzchak/Rivka, Yaakov/Rachel.
Eretz Yisrael is a land where תָּמִיד עֵינֵי ה' אֱ-לֹקֶיךָ בָּהּ מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה. HKB”H is constantly watching over us here. All He wants is for us to frequent the palace, to serve Him, to direct our tfilot to Him, as often as possible and with a smile.
By doing so we will once again merit the full blessing of the שפע העליון as it was in the time of the Beit Hamikdash, by virtue of the Lechem Hapanim. Where there was such prodigious abundance that people only had to do hishtadlut for two hours a day to make a parnasa, the rest of their time was dedicated to the truly important things in this world - serving HKB”H בשמחה and building a family of יראי שמיים who are דבקים בתורה ומצוות. As it says in Pirkei Avot (3, 5) –
רבי נחוניא בן הקנה אומר, כל המקבל עליו עול תורה, מעבירין ממנו עול מלכות ועול דרך ארץ. וכל הפורק ממנו עול תורה, נותנין עליו עול מלכות ועול דרך ארץ.
Israel today is well endowed with Gvura, both the Gvura of the Torah and the Gvura of כוחי ועוצם ידי. We have such a wealth of both, but they cannot exist alone. They need to mingle with the middah of Chessed, there has to be less גאווה on the side of the Gvura and more intermingling with מידת הרחמים and Chessed, more smiling at each other and more symbiosis. This is the secret code that Eretz Yisrael “operates” under. When we finally realize it and apply it, then the Geulah will come בבי"א.