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Severity and Kindness, Kindness comes before Severity

Develop yourself to the best of your ability

וְאֵ֛לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֥ת יִצְחָ֖ק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָ֑ם אַבְרָהָ֖ם הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־יִצְחָֽק׃

“The following—Jacob and Esau, whose births will presently be recounted—are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham. Although Abraham was also the father of Ishmael, his life’s work was perpetuated by virtue of the fact that he was the father of Isaac, who remained loyal to Abraham’s moral legacy.”

Abraham and Isaac, they belong together, complementing each other in their mission to make the world a more habitable place. This requires chesed – kindness – and gevurah – severity.

It was Abraham who introduced the world to Hashem and His will and kindness to have a relationship with humanity, and it was Isaac who showed that you need perseverance and severity to keep walking according to His will, in a world that has challenges. That one who keeps walking according to His will is rewarded by His kindness and one who makes mistakes faces His gevurah.

From this verse we can learn an important lesson on how to deal with chesed and gevurah. The second mention of Abraham’s name occurs immediately after the first, whereas the second mention of Isaac’s name occurs a number of words after its first mention. Abraham embodies kindness, while Isaac embodies severity. Despite the necessity of sometimes employing disciplinary measures – to ourselves or to the people we educate, we should never do so twice in succession.

There must always be an interval of kindness between every two such occasions.

This applies even to Hashem.

In Scripture, His Name Havayah – which stands for chesed – sometimes occurs in succession. Consider, for example:

וַיַּעֲבֹ֨ר יְהוָ֥ה ׀ עַל־פָּנָיו֮ וַיִּקְרָא֒ יְהוָ֣ה ׀ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת

“Hashem passed before him and proclaimed: Hashem Hashem, G-d Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth”.

But His Name Elokim – which stands for gevurah – we do not find twice in succession.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: The seven gates of righteous knowledge p.27

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