Day 23: Gevurah b’Netzach


Heroism That Perseveres

A dictionary of modern Hebrew translates gevurah as “heroism, strength, or heroic act”. Ask any marathon runner, or indeed anyone from Greater Boston, about the gevurah evident in Boston at last year’s (2013) marathon. People running without hesitation towards the explosions, making tourniquets from their own clothing, lifting heavy steel barriers to free trapped people, carrying the injured, etc. etc, etc.

In a dire emergency, people lose their usual hesitations, doubts, and ruminations. They act from their G-d given urge to use their strength to help those in peril. That is gevurah – strength coupled with the impulse to use it in service to others; in other words, heroism. Gevurah is built-in to our being. It is an aspect of G-d manifest in us, and we have seen it in action.

Netzach, perseverance/endurance, is the long term follow-through to gevurah. Imagine changing from a healthy runner to an amputee in one afternoon with no warning. After surviving explosions and surgeries, an individual has to find a way to come to grips with the enormous loss and turn towards recovery. Then comes the long, painful rehabilitation process.

We wonder how people can possibly keep going through all of this. We wonder if we ourselves could do it. They can do it, they are doing it, and so could we, because the capacity for netzach is within us. This gift from G-d manifests when giving up is not an option, failure is not an option. Read the stories of people injured at last year’s marathon. Their paths are not straight and are full of pain and suffering, and yet they continue. Netzach.

What could be more powerful than gevurah and netzach combined? Strength used in service of others and continued through whatever arises and for as long as necessary. With these two attributes of the divine in each of us, nothing is beyond us.

Notes added after the 2014 Marathon: Witness the redemptive effect of gevurah combined with netzach. The display of both strength and endurance by the runners was overwhelming – a Marblehead woman out in front setting the pace for 20 miles, an American man winning (first time since 1983), new records being set, the women’s wheelchair race won by an individual who started life orphaned and disabled in Russia. Who could help feeling G-d smiling down on Boston with good weather and a tailwind? Last year, evil and destruction entered our sphere. This year, healthy strength, power and endurance were everywhere in flower, and now we can shout Yes! and breathe easier. The human spirit of goodness has prevailed and we can go on.

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