Birchos HaShachar: Who Girds Yisrael With Strength
עוזר ישראל בגבורה …Who girds Yisrael with strength.
גבורה–G’vurah – strength or power – is a midah that, at first thought, we may not embrace as a crucial necessity in our lives. Let us examine, based on HaRav Avigdor Miller zt”l, why we absolutely must work on this midah and how it is used to serve Hashem.
We begin with the words “אשת חיל–Eishes Chayil.” How is a Jewish woman a warrior? When a woman is able to go out dressed modestly in 90-degree weather, able to overcome the sweltering heat and discomfort and able to overcome the influence of the outside world where women are dressed immodestly, to put it mildly, she is a warrior exercising her strength of character, her midah of g’vurah.
HaRav Yissocher Frand, many years ago, related a story about a man walking home from shul with his young son on the evening of Rosh HaShanah. The father turned to the son and asked him what he had davened for that night. The son, in his innocence, responded that he had asked Hashem to burn down the large law firm that his father worked at (presumably because the father worked very long hours). That father, Rav Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, took the message to heart and changed the course of his life and that of his family, leaving the law firm to join the Agudath Israel of America. That took the midah of g’vurah on his part as well as on the part of his wife to reduce their financial income quite substantially and make such a huge change.
I know one outstanding talmid chacham and magid shiur who was an attorney at a large firm, who made a decision at the outset that he was going to put in normal working hours and be on a bus home daily to be there for his family. He sacrificed becoming a partner, which he most certainly would have become, because he exercised his midah of g’vurah not to follow the rest of the world in competing and working very late hours to make partner. His family – and so many others through his shiurim, s’farim, and guidance – have been the beneficiaries of his g’vurah. Yet, another local talmid chacham and magid shiur, Reb Zev Ungar z”l, was threatened with termination if he didn’t participate in a case that would have included a lie. After consulting with rabbanim, he refused and was in fact terminated, terminating his livelihood. That is g’vurah! These are examples of people who achieved greatness through their g’vurah.
G’vurah is also crucial in standing up for Hashem and His Torah in given situations when we must take a stand. This is true on a communal and individual basis.
We also require g’vurah in order not to be negatively influenced by the world and the culture around us. This applies to all areas of life, including how we speak, dress, behave, and eat, as well as maintaining our high Torah-mandated standards of honesty and integrity. Rather than be influenced, we need to work on and exercise our midah of g’vurah to influence others. We need to be the ones who, at times, stand up in business situations and say, “NO. I will not do that. It is not honest. I will not say that. I will not falsely report that on your tax return.”
We need to exercise our g’vurah to be the one, at times, to stand up and say, “I wouldn’t want others to speak like that behind my back about me” or “I hope others don’t speak like that behind your back about you.”
Lastly, we need to exercise g’vurah to say “No” to our own yeitzer ha’ra: I will not say those negative or hurtful words. I will not go into spiritually dangerous situations. I will not waste the precious limited time that Hashem has gifted to me in this world. I will not waste the financial resources that Hashem has gifted to me on luxuries I don’t need, when so many others are in so much need. I will not damage my health by eating unhealthful foods consistently. I will not follow the crowd in any way that the Torah opposes.
When we say this brachah every morning, we thank Hashem for the g’vurah that He has given to us, and we can have in mind to ask Him to grant us more g’vurah to serve Him and come closer to Him.