We begin to recite the Thirteen Attributes of Compassion with Selichot early Sunday morning. The Foundation Stone is proud to offer definitions and Spiritual Exercises to emulate God's Attributes and incorporate them
into our prayers and service of God:We urge you to review and discuss each Attribute and develop your own exercises to emulate God.
Hashem: Although God knows that a person is going to sin and damage God's creation, He continues to recreate the person each second, even as the person is sinning. Hashem represents Chesed, which was the burst of energy at the moment of the creation, which was to do good to another. The same level of Chesed is used each moment of existence as God continues to recreate us. Although a sin is against this very
Chesed, Hashem continues to give existence.
Lihidamot/ Emulating God: Very often when one is struggling to grow and do Teshuva, he feels limited by the fact that he knows that although he is filled with remorse at this moment and sincerely wishes to never sin again, he probably will. He loses confidence in his Teshuva and himself. An application of this first attribute of mercy is to forgive
oneself even before he has committed a sin.
Even after a person sins and does Teshuva, Hashem continues to show him Chesed. The name used to describe Hashem's Chesed after the sin is the same name used pre-sin. This is to signify that although one has sinned and damaged the relationship, once he has done Teshuva, Hashem relates to him as if nothing wrong had ever happened. Contrast this with most human relationships. When one person hurts another, even after apology and forgiveness, it is difficult for the relationship to take up where it left off. There is a residual effect. This is not true in one's relationship with Hashem. Hashem continues to relate as if nothing had ever happened.
"I am called by what I am. I am Hashem, by my attribute of compassion. I am called Hashem because I deal with my creations with compassion."
"Just as I dealt with the Jews before the sin of the Golden Calf through Rachamim - Compassion, so I will even though they have sinned ."
Lihidamot/Emulating God: One has to be able to function free of guilt and treat his Teshuva as a reality. There is no element of Hashem not trusting the relationship because there was once a Chait – Mistaken directions
Kail: The source of all power, even the power we use to sin. There is no power other than Hashem. A sin usually entails a rejection of this concept. If I was aware that even the power to commit this sin comes from Hashem, would I sin? We function with a certain amount of belief in our own power. This is a gift of Kail. There is another dimension which is that in reality we posses a certain amount of power, mainly that of free choice, the ability to make meaningful decisions. Our decisions have consequences for the entire creation. This power comes from Kail. The deepest expression of this power is expressed in the highest form of Teshuva which is the ability to redefine one’s self. This means that if a person sees himself a stuck, unable to overcome certain patterns of behavior, he can literally recreate himself.
לב טהור ברא לי אלקים
This act is true Teshuva.
The very ability to make Teshuva, to make one's self new, comes from kail.
When Esther was her most desperate, as she was walking into Achashveirosh unannounced, and she felt the Divine Spirit leave her, she cried out,
”קלי קלי למה עזבתני“
If not for the attribute of Kail that arouses creation, the world could not exist even for a
second because of the harsh judgments that are aroused everyday (through our sins.)
It is this Midah of powerful Chesed that battles the Midah of Din. This is why we begin the recitation of the 13 Midot with Kail Melech Yoshaiv .
Lihidamot/Emulating God: To acknowledge that it is only with Hashem's help, that I can do Teshuva.
Rachum: comes from the word rechem, or womb. This refers to the connection the Hashem has with us, similar to that which a mother has with a child. It is a connection that cannot be broken. It is also that which enables a person to return to his roots no matter where he has gone.
Lihidamot/Emulating God: The security that one has from one's mother. Bitachon.
Chanun: Hashem grants gifts to the undeserving. This goes beyond the first Midah, which refers specifically to the life one is given even though Hashem knows that he is going to sin. This Midah describes Hashem as continuing to give us more and more although we are undeserving of even what we have. Hashem's generosity will not be stopped because of our sins.
The gifts refereed to are not just gifts in general, but specific gifts that allow more gifts to come: According to the Abarbanel (Shemot 34:6) it refers to the gifts of Da'at specifically, as in "Chonen Hada'at". Daat is that which empowers us to choose, grow and do Teshuva. It is therefore a gift that allows for more gifts to follow. Hirsch (Bamidbar 6:25) describes Chanun as the granting of the spiritual potential necessary to receive other gifts from God. In our context this would mean that although we have misused our potential, Hashem will grant us even more of the potential necessary to grow. The Netziv (Ibid.) holds that Chanun refers specifically to the acceptance of our Tefillot. As the attribute of mercy, this would mean that it is chanun which enables us to daven even though we have sinned. The very ability to recite the Thirteen comes from Chanun.
When Hashem gives us something it is as a gift not because He owes us reward for our Mitzvot .
At the time that Hashem said these names He showed Moshe a treasure. “This is the reward saved for those who do Mitzvot.” God then showed Moshe an even greater treasure, “This is the reward for those who raise orphans.” Hashem continued to show Moshe one treasure after another until He showed him the largest treasure, “This is the source of good that I use for those who have no merit. ”.
Lihidamot/Emulating God: When we feel that we are undeserving to pray, or ask for more at the same time when we are confessing our sins, we should acknowledge Chanun, and thank Hashem for His beneficence.
If you see a person who speaks good of other people, you should know that the malachim - angels speak good of him to God .
Erech Apayim: Hashem is slow to anger. He patiently waits for us to do Teshuva. He patiently waits for the Godly in a person to wage battle over his physical urges. (See Hirsch, Shemot 34:6) This is the Midah that describes Hashem as understanding us intimately. He is aware of our struggles, weaknesses, and emotional needs. His judgment of us is based on each individual. It is highly personal. This reflects Hashgacha Pratit (See HaKetav VeHakabalah, Bamidbar 14:18)
When people argue they are often so focused on what they are feeling that they are unable to understand and thereby forgive the other. Hashem’s focus is entirely on what we are feeling and experiencing.
“Apayim” is plural for faces; one for Tzaddikim and one for reshaim . For the Tzaddikim Hashem saves their reward in Olam Habah, and punishes them in this world incrementally so that they will have no Gehinom. For the reshaim Hashem grants them peace in this world, and all of their reward here in Olam Hazeh . The reshaim receive their reward in this world only if they do not do Teshuva .
Hashem looks at the good that people are going to do, and not their evil .
There is an angel of destruction called “Af”. Hashem sends him far away from us so that he will not hurt us .
Lihidamot/Emulating God: It is important to be aware of this Midah when asking for forgiveness. When we are reviewing our behavior and feel overwhelmed by the numerous things we do to hurt ourselves, and by our destructive patterns of behavior that continue to appear year after year, we must understand that Hashem judges us as we are, and as what we are capable of becoming. Hashgacha Pratit means that Hashem is intimately involved in our lives, and knows us well.
V’rav Chesed: It is this attribute which overwhelms Din. (See Rabbeinu Bachya, Bereishit 18:33) More specifically, it is this Midah, which allows some good to come out of our sin. (See Rashi, Vayikra 20:17) The good can be the Teshuva which follows. It can also mean that although we have sinned it doesn't mean that we have forfeited our future opportunities to grow. The Chesed referred to here is eternal. (See Ibn Ezra, Tehillim 103: 8) The same Chesed that brought us into existence although we had done nothing to deserve existence continues to give us opportunities to earn our lives and Olam Habah. (See Kad Hakemach: Purim)
This is an indication of the ever growing and increasing Chesed of Hashem .
Lihidamot/Emulating God: We should not feel that since we have sinned so much that we have lost our opportunity to make the most of our existence. The opportunity of Teshuva is that it reopens all possibilities and potential to us.
Ve’emet: That which Hashem gives us is ours. (Ramban, Bereishit 32:11, & Ha’Emunah V’HaBitachon Chapter 23) The fact that we receive something as a gift does not detract from it becoming truly ours. Each act of Chesed is an expression of Truth. Therefore God is not waiting for us to repay Him for His kindness. (R. Bachya, Shemot 34:6) Hashem is reliable. God is a unity. Whatever God wants He wants as a whole being. He is not torn between forgiving or not forgiving, bracha and Klala. (Maharal, Netivos Olam, Chapter 1)
Even the blessings we are granted are measured to insure that they can foster growth, and not sink us deeper into our holes. (Hirsch, Shemot 34:6)
Because the Chesed is an expression of Emet it does not forgive Bitul Torah – wasting time! (Kad HaKemach, Kippurim).
Lihidamot/Emulating God: We must understand that unlike people who must overcome themselves in order to forgive, God does not have to. The forgiveness and the blessings are complete expressions of His will. They are unconditional. When we picture God torn between His judgment and His kindness we are denying His unity and Oneness. Any picture we may have of such an internal battle is simply a reflection of our own mixed feelings. The more we focus on Emet the less torn we will be.
Notzair Chesed Lalafim: Hashem guards the Chesed that we do far beyond its immediate impact and effect. All our good is referred to as Chesed because it gives life.
Lihidamot/Emulating God: We do not always experience the good that we do accumulating. We do not necessarily feel that the Mitzvot we have performed have strengthened us. We are not aware of its long term impact. This is especially true on Yom Kippur when we are doing Teshuva. We are often haunted by the very real possibility that we will repeat our mistakes. The Teshuva we do lasts, if not on its own, than through this Midah. (Hirsch, Shemot 34:7) We are different people because of the good that we have done, the Mitzvot we have performed, the Torah that we have learned, and the Tefillot that we have recited.
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Nosei Avon vaFesha vChata’ah: Hashem carries the burden of our three major categories of sin; Avonos are those things we do deliberately because of our drives. Peshaim are those things we do simply to anger Hashem. A Chata’ah is a sin committed through a lack of awareness. (See Rashi and Da'at Zekainim MiBa’alei Tosafot, Shemot 34:7) (The Abarbanel explains the categories differently: Avonos refer to sins of action, Peshaim refers to sins of thought or weaknesses in faith, and he agrees that Chata’ah refers to Shogeg.)
Each sin that we commit creates an accusing angel of destruction that prosecutes us for that sin. (Or HaChaim, Bereishit 6:11) The sin also breaks the connection of our souls to the root of our Neshama. The light that comes from the root is then pirated by sources of evil. (Ibid. Bamidbar 23:8) As long as we delay our Teshuva, God carries the accusations of the angel of destruction without punishing us. He also allows the source of good to be misused. He must bear watching a source of good be misused if He is not to destroy us immediately upon committing an Aveirah.
Lihidamot/Emulating God: We must realize that our sins damage not only ourselves, but Hashem’s world as well. In His patience He, so to speak, bears the consequences of our actions! This Midah asks us to understand the other side of this relationship as well.
V’nakay: Although God does not ignore our sins, He cleanses us slowly from them. If one does Teshuva the sin is cleansed away entirely. The person who has done Teshuva, is able to get on with his life as if nothing happened.
Lihidamot/Emulating God: Our suffering is usually part of our process of cleansing. The promise of a complete cleansing after Teshuva is an opportunity to begin one’s life all over again.