Special Elul Series 5782 – Part 3 – 13 Midos 2
The sefer Tomer Devorah uses the 13 midos mentioned in Michah 7:18 rather than the ones we recite from Sh’mos 34:6. We will note both versions for each midah. Our purpose in these segments is twofold:
• Objective 1: To understand as best as we can the midah of Hashem being described, so that we can put forth the necessary efforts to emulate each midah. Our efforts are a fulfillment of the great mitzvah of “והלכת בדרכיו–V’halachta bi’drachav (and go in His ways)” [D’varim 28:9] and enable us to climb towards achieving d’veikus, the ultimate connection to Hashem. These efforts will also generate the mercy and forgiveness promised by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu when Hashem Himself showed Moshe Rabbeinu how to evoke His mercy and forgiveness for B’nei Yisrael. When we are merciful to others, Hashem will be merciful to us. When we are forgiving of others, Hashem will be forgiving of us.
• Objective 2: To understand on a very basic level what we are saying when we recite the 13 Midos, especially during S’lichos and on Yom Kippur.
For Objective 1, we will primarily present from the sefer Matnas Chaim on Tomer Devorah, written by HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, and from the shiurim presented by HaRav Mordechai Finkelman (available on TorahAnytime). For Objective 2, we will primarily utilize a sheet available in Hebrew and English from Irgun Harbatzas HaTorah (732-363-0879), as well as the shiurim from HaRav Mordechai Finkelman.
MIDAH 1: Hashem* / מִי אֵ-ל כָּמוֹךָ–Mi Keil kamocha (Who is a G-d like You?)**
*in D’varim **in Michah
Objective 1: Hashem grants us a vast multitude of gifts. These can include gifts such as every breath of life, a healthy mind, ability to speak, ability to see, to hear, to smell, to feel, and to walk. We surely could fill many volumes of books listing the plethora of gifts that Hashem bestows upon us.
When one utilizes one or more of these gifts in a way that directly violates the wishes of his Benefactor, that is a great insult and disgrace to Him. Imagine if we bought someone an expensive gift to enjoy, and he decides to use that gift to harm us or our children! Who could tolerate such an affront and despicable act? The answer is that Hashem can and does. As an example, many times we take His tremendous gift of speech and use it to harm and hurt His other children. Hashem tolerates that and does not punish us immediately. He could easily remove our ability to speak before we cause harm or hurt.
Objective 2: The “Hashem” in the Midos we recite means before we sin. Hashem knows when we are about to use His precious gift against Him and His children, but He does not remove His gift. Not only does He continue to bestow the gift we are using against Him, but He also continues to bestow all His other gifts to us, as well.
Our task: We must learn to emulate Hashem’s midah. Even when others wish to harm us, we should strive to not withhold any goodness we have been doing for them until now. We may certainly speak to them and ask why they would want to hurt us, and we may protect ourselves. After that, we should be tolerant and wait for them to apologize. While we are waiting for that, we should strive not to withhold any past favors we may have done for them.
MIDAH 2: Hashem* / נֹשֵׂא עָוֺן–nosei avon (Who pardons iniquity)**
Objective 1: When we sin, we create a prosecuting angel. That mal’ach needs to be “sustained.” Ordinarily, it would come to us to sustain itself, thereby destroying us. However, Hashem, in His great mercy, not only waits patiently for us to return to Him, not only continues to provide us with all His goodness and kindness, but in addition, He Himself sustains this mal’ach to allow us to have the time to return to Him. When we do return and perform the requirements of t’shuvah, then He destroys that angel.
Objectives 1 and 2: The use of the same Name of Hashem indicates that even after our sin, once we have returned to Hashem through t’shuvah, Hashem restores us to our previous relationship. He is the same Hashem to us after the sin as He was before the sin. In fact, the relationship is even stronger after t’shuvah than it was prior to the sin.
That will generally not be the case in a human relationship, where one has deeply hurt another and apologized. In that case, the hurt person may forgive the one who caused the hurt, but the relationship will usually not be the same as it was.
Our task: First, from “nosei avon” we learn that after we have been hurt, while waiting for others to apologize to us, even though the hurt continues, and the harm they may have caused continues, we should continue to bestow any past goodness we were accustomed to providing until they “return to us,” apologizing for their behavior towards us.
Second, from the second “Hashem” we learn that after the one who caused the hurt sincerely apologizes and rectifies any harm caused, we should strive to restore the relationship just as it was prior to the hurt and harm that they caused us.
MIDAH 3: Keil* / וְעֹבֵר עַל פֶּשַׁע–v’oveir al pesha (and overlooks transgression)**
Objective 1: Hashem Himself cleans up our aveiros. Who is willing and stands ready to clean up a very messy, dirty diaper of a young child? Only a compassionate mother and father are willing and ready to do so.
Objective 2: Keil denotes powerful compassion. It is an even higher level than the compassion expressed in the first two midos.
Our task: Emulate Hashem’s midah of powerful compassion, where He personally (not through a mal’ach) washes away our messy, dirty aveiros. When someone hurts us and has apologized and has made amends (t’shuvah), not only should we forgive him, but we should seek to clean up his mess. One powerful way of doing this is to ask Hashem in our tefilos to inspire the offender to do complete t’shuvah so that he can reinstate his relationship with Hashem, as well. Here, we not only tolerate and forgive, but we become an advocate for the person, helping him to clean up the mess he made.
Emulating Hashem’s midos is a very tall order and a lifetime of effort and toil. HaRav Chaim Friedlander writes that, as with other areas of avodas Hashem, this takes much time and effort. Every bit of effort we expend to think about others and work towards emulating Hashem’s midos will bring us to a closer connection to Hashem, thereby evoking Hashem’s mercy for all of B’nei Yisrael and for ourselves and loved ones.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is an excellent bookmark-style card available to put into your S’lichos and into your Yom Kippur machzor that offers very succinct descriptions of each midah in just one sentence. It can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. As well, a more expansive full-page companion can be obtained by calling 732-363-0879.