Rabbi Boaz Genut
Former Rosh Kollel in St. Louis
Former Executive Director of Torah Mitzion
Currently Director of the Department of Marriage and Community Affairs at Tzohar

 

As we think about the upcoming days of Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we are naturally drawn to the great acts of heroism that have been shown throughout Israel’s short 59 year history. In Hebrew, the term for heroism or strength isgevura. In this d’var Torah, I would like to examine what the term gevurameans.

The Talmud in Brachot (58:1) says: “To you, Hashem, is the Gedula(greatness), and theGevura (strength), and theTiferet(glory) …” (Divrei Hayamim a 29:11) –

“Gevura” – refers to the exodus from Egypt, as it was said: “Israel saw the great (Gedula) hand …”

Anyone who takes a close look will realize that there is an asymmetry. The Midrash associates the exodus from Egypt withgevura and bases it on the pasuk: “Israel saw the great hand” which mention the Gedula(greatness) and the Gevura!!

What is the difference betweengedula and gevura. At first glance it seems that they are synonyms and mean the same thing. They both describe a situation in which a person is appreciated by others for what he did or does. Rav Kook

in his monumental commentary ondavening (Olat Reiya p. 230) explains that in a deep way these two expressions represent two opposite spiritual ideas.

The expressiongedula (greatness) is used by Chazal to describe a person after he accepts a position of leadership.Gevura, on the other hand, relates to someone who has taken a particular action. For example a person who risks his life in order to help other people will be considered as gibor(hero).

In other words, we can say thatgedula transforms an individual into a larger leadership role whilegevura transforms a general idea into specific behavior. Gedulaelevates an individual from dealing with small details and bestows upon the individual a more global vision. Gevura operates in the opposite direction and requires an individual to actualize the details of a more general principle.

In terms of learning, gedula means to conceptualize broad ideas and gevura means to realize the principle in a specific act. Accordingly,gedula and gevura represent two different processes which reflect and compliment each other. The process ofgevura can be established if a process ofgedula was set out in advance.

What is the theme of the exodus from Egypt? The goal was to redeem the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. But that was not all. The larger vision was the creation of Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. There are many ways to end slavery but there is only one way lay the foundation for a nation: independence. During the period of slavery in Egypt there was gedula, since the people were coming together as nation. In order to activate the founding of the nation, though, the actualization ofgevura was necessary.

Gevura was a necessary step in order toemphasize the fact that there were two different nations. Crossing the Red Sea was the final step in that process. Under the leadership of Moshe and Nachshon ben Aminadav, true giborim under our definition, we find the culmination of the process. Both Israel and Egypt entered the Sea but only the people of Israel emerged. This is the meaning of the Midrash from above: “Gevura” refers to the exodus from Egypt.” What makes this event the ultimate expression of gevura is the fact that “Israel saw the great hand …” When the people of Israel stood on the shore and watch the waters return to their place and swallow the Egyptians; they realized the different between those who survived the sea and those who didn’t. The gedula of Egypt allowed for the gevura of Israel.