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The 13 Attributes of Mercy

Connecting to Hashem on the Highest Possible Levels

We want to connect to Hashem because we understand that everything comes from Hashem, whatever it is that we want we have to get it from Hashem.

The trick is that Hashem knows that after we come to him, we will instantly understand that we don’t need anything else because we just need to be connected to him.

All the things that we need are secret messages telling us to do the effort and come to Hashem, but what we need is just the connection with Hashem and that’s all.

How exactly can you connect to Hashem?  As Chazzal state “He is a consuming fire” and if you approach a consuming fire, you will get consumed.

Also, you don’t want to lose your identity, you just want to connect to Hashem.

Let’s say that this is the normal assumption that we want to keep our identity fine how do we do that, the Gemara says there are two possibilities.  Both have the same beginning but they are two different solutions.

We will only discuss one here.

Emulating God by Emulating His 13 Attributes of Mercy

The Gemara says “Just as He [Hashem] is merciful so should you be merciful. Just as He [Hashem] is gracious so should you be gracious”. and as we know this is the beginning of the 13 attributes of mercy, we see that the Gemara is giving us a certain way that is related to the 13 attributes of mercy.

What does it mean “as he is merciful, You have to be merciful” and also if “he is giving grace you should also give grace to others”. It means that when we are emulating Hashem we are coming closer to God,

we are now at The call of the hour, as they say, because this is the 10 days of Teshuva and we want to use the time available to connect to Hashem and specifically with the thirteen attributes of mercy, we said and this is what the whole time period is about.

Let’s speak about Merciful and Gracious and you should understand it can apply to all of the 13 attributes.

The first question we have to answer is what is close or far in spirituality. Is there a time and space in my relation to Hashem is there a place that Hashem doesn’t exist?  What does it mean to be far from Hashem.

Is Hashem in one place and I’m going away from Hashem? No Hashem is everywhere. Wherever I go I’m close to Hashem.

If so, how can it be that I’m going away from Hashem?

To say someone is far away from Hashem or someone is close to Hashem, what does that mean? Rav Ashlag brings the Gemara where they were mentioning about being merciful as he is and he explains that this principle is the Foundation of the Attributes.

What does it mean to be close to Hashem or far away from Hashem, to be close to Hashem means character-wise. It’s not about the physical distance, it’s about the trait of closeness.

For example, let’s say you’re sitting in a bus and the guy sitting next to you likes fishing and you have nothing to do with fishing and for him, fishing is all that he likes, There is nothing else in his life, Just fishing. You’re sitting next to him very close but you have nothing to speak with him about, Why? Because mentally you are very far away from him. You are on one side of the world in your head and he is on the other side of the world.

Conversely, Let’s say you are a fishing guy and that is what you like. Automatically you feel close to all the people in the world that are fishing friends because that’s what you like. You feel connected to them even though they are on the other side of the world but you feel close to them.

If it is true by human beings the very low level of the external things, such as actions and activities, how much more so when we talk about something that is much more internal such as the inner trait of the person.

The 13 Attributes and Moshe Rabbeinu

When Moshe Rabbeinu had the revelation of the 13 attributes what did he gain from this revelation?

He gained tremendously, he gained the way to connect to Hashem.

Hashem said “These are my traits. If you follow these qualities and you bring them to yourself, to make these qualities and these attributes to be your nature, until that will be your definition, then you will connect to Me”.

The opposite is also true. Someone that is exactly the opposite of these traits, he is far away from Hashem.

We want to emulate Hashem and to become a revelation of Hashem in the world.

For example, let’s say someone that is very merciful all the time. He helps other people because he has mercy on them. He supports them emotionally or physically or whatever it is for them, they understand that he is doing it because he is connected with Hashem. The people that he helps relate that to him. Whatever he does to help them it’s like it’s coming from Hashem. He has become a revelation of the goodness of Hashem in the world.

What can be better than that? Did you become a revelation of Hashem in the world? That’s what they call the cream of the crop. This is the best of the best levels that a human being can reach. This was the level of the prophets and the forefathers and Moshe and all Tzaddikim after him. This is what we are striving for.

As much as we know more about the attributes of Hashem, Then we have the pathway to connect to Hashem.

Knowing How to Truly Show the Attribute of Mercy

What exactly is the attribute mercy?

Let’s say you have a child that is crying that he wants candy and let’s say that this child is allergic to candies, Would it be merciful to give him the candy Or it will be merciful not to give him the candy?

Not giving the candy, in this case, is right, You understand that it’s not good for him that he will have to go to the hospital if he will eat this candy. But as for him, he is crying and he goes on waving his hands his legs and throwing a tantrum because he really wants a candy.

But the mercy is not to give it to him.

Mercy is not always kindness, we know in the Kabbalah that someone that is merciful is balanced. He is not too judgmental, not too kind, he is balanced.

Sometimes you have very hard cases. You are going on the bus or train and the guy comes to you and he tells you he needs five shekels for eating something and you know that he is a drug addict. Do you give him the money or you don’t give him money?

He says he needs it to eat and the Gemara teaches us that if someone is asking you for money because he needs to eat it you give it to him. You are not asking questions because it might be that he will die from hunger. If he for sure will not die then you can refuse. [There is a story with Nachum Ish Gamzu that someone died because no one gave him charity].

There are many things that you don’t know what exactly is the right thing to do, sometimes it’s very hard to actually be merciful. You want to be merciful but you don’t know what is the real attribute of mercy is in that situation.

There are many questions about it and its very difficult. It’s not an easy thing to be truly merciful.

But all of this is the external application of the message, the fact that the person has the attribute of mercy and feels mercy, and he wants to give in the right and manner to the people it means that he has mercy.

Reward for Your Generocity is Granted According to the Effort Made

I will tell a story to make it more clear, there is one guy that comes to a rich man he tells him that his father is in the hospital and he needs Twenty Grand for the operation, otherwise his father will die.

So the rich man doesn’t have the money right then, so he is running around and collects from other people. And he is getting all kinds of different things. He is really making efforts to get him the 20 grand that he needs and the guy takes the money and runs away. There was nothing, there is no father there is no hospital, he was lying.

Another man comes [who actually needs the money] and tells him “I need 20 grand for the operation”. The rich man tells him “No problem You go to the secretary and she will write your check”. That’s it finished and they write the check.

The question of the story is: who gets more reward? The one who made the effort but the cause was not a real cause or the giver who gave for a real cause, but for him it was nothing, not hard at all?

The one who gave didn’t do it himself, he didn’t even need to sign this check himself and but it was a real cause.

Who gets more reward? Obviously both of them get reward, but the question is who gets more?

All of Israel inherits the next world. Does that mean that everybody has the same share?

No. Obviously there are different levels.

The point that we learn here is that to be merciful in your heart is one thing, and how to apply that outside and show your mercy and live your attribute of mercy and give to other people is another thing. That’s the question, how do you know, It’s not simple It’s very hard. I know for myself sometimes I’m asking people for money and they are suspicious of me, I may not be for real since many people are bluffing.

The point is that one thing is to feel mercy in the heart and another thing is how to execute it, now to practice your mercy outside.

Being Merciful to the Merciful

Now another important point is to whom do you act mercifully.

For example, I hope I’m not offending anyone, but many people feel a lot of mercy for the dolphins and the dogs and the cats and all kinds of animals. But for human beings, these same people can be very cruel.

There is a story about the Chofetz Chaim. When he was in Germany in Berlin before the First World War, he saw a woman with a little dog. The woman picked up the dog and she kissed the dog. The Chofetz Chaim started to shake and his students asked what was happening. He said “In this place, they will murder many people”.

His students asked how do you know?  He responded “The Torah teaches those that are killing people are kissing animals.”

I’m not saying that anyone that is kissing animals is suspected to kill people, the point is that there is a natural emotion of mercy within everybody, and when someone is directing his mercy to the wrong place, then in the place that he really should have mercy, he doesn’t have the mercy because he already used the mercy that he has in his heart.

It states in the Gemara, “Those who have mercy on those that are cruel, will be cruel to those who are merciful.”

My point is that it’s not enough to have the emotions of mercy, It’s also very important to direct it to the right place.

In Halacha, there is an order of priority of who to give charity to. First, give charity to the poor of your city, it means whoever is closest to you should be closer in your heart.

And who are the people that are closest to? Your own family. Your parents, your children, wife, husband, sister, brother whoever are the people that are closest to you.

That is the first circle.

If you have a student or a Rabbi or someone that was a very close friend they can also come into the first circle.

But those people closest to you directly are the first people that you have to direct your mercy towards.

And then afterward you can make your circle bigger. If you have more capability you can give more you can help or more people. But first of all, make sure that the people that are close to you they have what they need. I’m not saying only money, I’m saying mostly emotionally. For example, there are many people that don’t show love to their children, unfortunately. They get the money that they need but they don’;t get the love, They feel that they are not loved.

Why? Because the parents don’t express mercy to the children, even if they are full of mercy they direct it to other places.

The point that I wanted to make today is that one of the traits of Hashem is mercy and when are we expressing mercy It also means balance.

 

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