Much of the book of Genesis is devoted to the stories of the lives of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, what they did and also where their particular trials and achievements happened. Each chronicle that folds into the next brings a chain of ideas that never ceases to amaze us and how it affects our lives even today. The first Patriarch we encounter is Abraham. Abraham is constantly on the move, walking and running to do mitzvoth. He is associated with setting things in motion. He walks the length and breadth of the Land, runs to mobilize people to form a different way of thinking and approach life through belief in one G-d. He and his wife Sarah set up special inns providing for their guests and always offering a second helping of spirituality. He made goodness prevail over darkness. This is why Abraham is the personification of Chesed (the attribute of loving-kindness) (active motion). Abraham rushed forward until he reached the city of Shechem as it says in the passuk :”AD makome Shechem AD Eilon Moreh”- “UP TO the city of Shechem”. Here in this place middat Haschesed reaches a limit and Abraham stands still. This is the first encounter we have with Middat HaGevurah (the attribute of might/restraint).
The confined boundary given to running Abraham and the AD (ayin daled) used in the passuk also are the only 2 letters in the Shema that are larger. Regarding the Shema, halacha requires an individual to STOP and either stand or sit in one place (which is the opposite of movement) and focus. Later on as we read about the Yosef stories, the city of Shechem becomes the focal point of Middat HaGevurah- the place he is sold, and even prior to this, the place where Dina is taken by Shechem Ben Chamor and Shimon and Levi retaliate. Each Patriarch has a distinct inner nature as do all the places spoken about in the torah because of their inner essence and connection to Am Yisrael and the people that love Israel. In order to emulate the legacy of our forefathers and land, we study their actions and understand the many dimensions hidden in the character of each place (as Yaakov was able to see and say “Mah Norah hamakome hazeh”- “How awesome is this place!” when he layed upon the stones of the Temple Mount)
Abraham was a saint and his middat hachesed had him praying even for evildoers. Chesed can overflow if it is not controlled. This is where Gevurah comes in, disciplining it, making the walls for a vessel to catch it, contain it. This is like healthy love which includes as element of self control and respect for the other person’s boundaries. This is the key ingredient to Shalom Bayit. Our Rabbis teach us: “A person should always draw people close by means of his right hand and know when to push them aside with his left.” (Sotah 47)
There has to come a time soon that all “Peace Love and Good Music” attitudes Israel has been displaying up until now (and what hasn’t Israel done for peace?) will hit finally a brick wall. There will come a time soon when all of its citizens will say AD kahn- UP TO HERE. Israel is a country of true Chesed. When the nations of the world refuse to recognize Israel for its truth, for being G-d’s land, it will have to display another facet- Middat Hagevurah in order to preserve the real meaning of middat HaShalom. A person is made of many aspects of the spheres making him/her complex and interesting. That’s what puts him above animals that show only one distinct nature. Choose to use the middot to be a kind, disciplined, loving and respecting human being. There are many missions yet to be accomplished and the combination of all of Hashem’s aspects in us will save the world when goodness prevails over darkness. That’s why we read about Abraham- some things never change and history always repeats itself.
Shabbat Shalom- Leah Goldsmith