The Shemoneh Esrei – The Second Blessing (3)
G-d’s Might (Gevurot Hashem)
The second blessing corresponds to Yitzchak our father and the Divine attribute of gevura (judgment or severity). When G-d relates to the world through the attribute of gevura, it is often associated with strict judgment and consequently with the emotions of fear and trepidation. This is implied in the words of the Torah: “The Fear of Yitzchak”. Judgment however, is not the only function of gevura. Another one of its functions is to set limits, allowing for measured Divine influences to enter the world.
A hint to this can be found at the beginning of this blessing, in the phrase “You are mighty forever, G-d.” “Mighty forever” (“gibor le’olam”) can be understood in the Hebrew language to mean that G-d clothes Himself in the attribute of gevura “le’olam” ― which can be read as ― “for the sake of the world.” For without the function of gevura the world would not be able to exist.
This is the deeper meaning of the verse, “G-d has clothed and girded Himself with might; G-d, You also established the world firmly so that it should not falter.” (Psalms 93:1) Through the attribute of G-d’s might (gevura) the world stands firm and is able to endure (i.e. it does not falter), and without it the world could not exist.
Kindness (chessed) through the Attribute of Gevura
In this blessing, the functions of G-d’s kindness and might combine, resulting in a blend of their distinct functions. One attribute remains dominant while the other one works within the parameters of the dominant function. Kindness works within the attribute of gevura to temper and soften the latter’s pure severity. Gevura, however, remains dominant. This balanced state is necessary to sustain the world in the most ideal manner. For this reason there is no mention of punishment in the blessing. Instead we find mention only of matters that are for the betterment of Mankind and the world.
For example: resurrection of the dead, while ultimately an act of chessed (for there can be no greater act of kindness then the granting of eternal life), is also an expression of G-d's absolute might. Also mentioned in this blessing is how G-d sustains the world with kindness. The manner in which He sustains us is also an expression of chessed working through gevura. This is why although G-d sustains all the living, at the same time each species of life gets only a limited amount of food and many times must also exert much effort to obtain its needs. Man, in particular, is required to work in order to obtain his sustenance. This is because G-d chooses to channel His efforts to supply the world with sustenance in a limited manner.
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.
L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!