Shimon the son of Yaakov was one of the fiercest of his brothers. In Kabbalistic terms as taught from the Zohar, we could say he had a lot of “dinim” (Judgments). Together with Levi, they decimated the city of Shechem after the abduction of Dina. At Yaakov’s passing, there was a very cryptic message for Shimon, instead of a blessing: “may their anger be cursed and may my honor not join their council”. Close to Moshe Rabbenu’s death, he also said something strange: “May the number of dead [people] fromShimon be counted”.
There’s one very powerful episode in the Torah that tells us a little better about the character of Shimon. After Yosef called the brothers to dine with him, he asked his son Menashe to put a special silver goblet in Binyamin’s knapsack, and then told him to pursue them in order to accuse them of theft. The sages tell us in a Midrash that when the brothers were confronted by the soldiers in Yosef’s palace, Shimon shouted so loud that most of them fainted and Egypt trembled. Such was his power, and he was willing to destroy everything in order to return everyone to their father.
Clearly, Shimon had an exceptionally powerful character that needs to be used for good. Let’s see what we can learn from him, from a Kabbalistic and Chassidic perspective.
Dealing with Judgments the Proper Way
Part of the work we find in the Kabbalistic siddurim is the transfer of Gevurot (powers or “judgments”) from one Sephira to the next. After they are in place, we bring the Chassadim (powers of “lovingkindness”) to sweeten them. These Gevurot, if not treated properly, become the source of vitality for the Sitra Achra (“other side” i.e. forces of evil), so we are always trying to mitigate them through our good deeds and kavanot (mystical intentions). This power of Gevurot, which is inherent in Creation and also inside of us, can be manifested in heightened strength, self-discipline, or in a general sense, when bad things happen.
But one very important point to stress is that these “Gevurot” are not bad in themselves. Rabbi Chaim Vital teaches in his writings that we are meant to sweeten them, not destroy or repudiate them. In a physical sense it’s this particular power of Gevurotfrom Hashem that establishes boundaries and limits of time and space. It’s also the source of a judgment decision, as their name implicate. In other words, theyare a necessary part of Creation, and neutral in their nature.
This is, in fact, the source for the Kabbalistic custom of not studying Mikra (Scriptures) at night.This includes the book of Torah, the books of Prophets and Scriptures. Since night is already a time of Judgments (as we see that it becomes more dangerous to go out), and the Written Torah is also an aspect of Gevurot, we don’t want to add fire to fire. Instead, it isa more accepted custom to study the Oral Torah (Talmud, Mishnah or Kabbalah) at night since they are an aspect of Chassadim and so, we want to sweeten the Judgments.
Judgments in People
But perhaps we can understand this power through the more tangible example of a cold-blooded person. When someone is described that way, we immediately think of him as “bad” because he “can’t feel” or because “he’s blocked”. The image of a “cold-blooded”assassin is probably the first to come to mind for most people.
However, the term “cold-blooded” can also apply to an excellent, caring doctor who simply is not impressed by the gruesome sights he sees every day.He needs to be “cold-blooded” in order not to faint and, in this regard, we can also say that he can subdue his sensitivities in order to cure his patients.
Similarly, parents must, at times, also display the power of Gevurot towards their children. We don’t mean to “judge” them in the plain sense, but to set boundaries of behavior so they don’t go astray. It doesn’t take much to imagine how badly a child would grow if he could choose his own menu every day, whether to go to school or not, or simply not be disciplined at all for his behavior.
We see also that even when the brothers went the first time to Egypt, Yosef kept Shimon as a “security” in order for them to also bring Binyamin. The Zohar lauds Yosef’s genius in foreseeing that if Shimon and Levy (two very powerful Tzaddikim, whose soul root are derived from the Gevurot), would be left together, they could raze Egypt, as they did with Shechem.
As everything in life, it all depends on the paths we choose. Some people are born gentler, some people are born fiery. What we ultimately choose to do with the powers of our soul determines whether we get closer or farther away from Hashem. Shimon, in this sense might have needed to be isolated from his brothers also when receiving his blessings, but he was nonetheless one incredibly holy soul. He’s buried together with his brother Levy near the city of Matzada, one of our Prayer Trek’s destinations. May his memory be for a blessing and may we all merit to sweeten all our Judgments!
This article was written in the zechut of Chaya Tzvia bas Sara Ita and Dovid Meyer ben Sara Ita. May HaShem help her attain all her hearts desires speedily!
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