God’s 13 Attributes of Mercy

God’s 13 Attributes of Mercy
borrowed partly from Student Rabbi Sandra Charak

Still reeling from the people’s apostasy at the Golden Calf and afraid that God will abandon them, Moses beseeches God to let him “know God’s ways” (Exodus 33:13). In response, God recites the divine attributes to Moses: “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed:

Exodus 34:6-7 Now Yahweh passed by before his face and called: Yahweh, Yahweh El, Who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and with much kindness and truth, preserving kindness to thousands, bearing with depravity, transgression and sin, yet He is not immediately making innocent in order to make innocent, but visiting the depravity of the fathers on the sons and on the sons’ sons, on the third and on the fourth generation.

It is also suggested that we recite and meditate twice a day on Adonai’s 13 attributes of God during the month of Elul until Yom Kippur.  According to Kabbalah, Adonai is closest to us during this month, in spirit, energetically speaking.  The gematria of Elul אלול   equals 13 which is also love אהב. There are 13 attributes of Adonai, showing love to His children if they listen.  This is best illustrated on Yom Kippur when we get a chance to create a new contract with Adonai promising teshuvah, our turning, returning to God.  Any changes we promise to strive for, even minor ones as long as we are moving towards becoming better people, causes Adonai to smile.

Adonai’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, or His ethical attributes are repeated twice in the Torah, in Exodus and the prophet Micah, giving them extra important meaning.  These verses are the very core of the Selichot prayers said each day during Elul until Yom KippurS’licha means forgiveness.  During the month of Elul we do teshuvah knowing that we are all one and connected in God.

The Thirteen Attributes begins with Adonai, Adonai :

  1. יהוה

YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH – compassion before a person sins;  (Adonai)–God is merciful before a person sins! Even though aware that future evil lies dormant within him. “The Evil inclination”

  1. יהוה
    YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH – compassion after a person has sinned;  (Adonai)–God is merciful after the sinner has gone astray. 
  2. אל
    El – mighty in compassion to give all creatures according to their need,  (El)–a name that denotes power as ruler over nature and humankind, indicating that God’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by this name. 
  3. רחום
    Rachum – merciful, that humankind may not be distressed;  (rahum)–God is filled with loving sympathy for human frailty does not put people into situations of extreme temptation, and eases the punishment of the guilty. 
  4. חנון
    Chanun – gracious if humankind is already in distress;  (v’hanun)–God shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed. 
  5. אפים ארך
    Erech appayim – slow to anger;  (ereh apayim)–God gives the sinner ample time to reflect, improve, and repent.
  1. רב חסד
    Rav chesed –plenteous in mercy; (lovingkindness)  (v’rav hesed)–God is kind toward those who lack personal merits, providing more gifts and blessings than they deserve; if one’s personal behavior is evenly balanced between virtue and sin, God tips the scales of justice toward the good. 
  2. אמת
    Emet – truth;  (v’emet)–God never reneges on His word to reward those who serve Him. 
  3. לאלפים נצר חסד
    Notzer chesed laalafim – keeping mercy unto the thousands;  (notzeir hesed la-alafim)–God remembers the deeds of the righteous for the benefit of their less virtuous generations of offspring (thus we constantly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs). 
  4. נשא עון
    Noseh avon – forgiving iniquity;  Forgiver of iniquity (nosei avon)–God forgives intentional sin resulting from an evil disposition, as long as the sinner repents. Regular daily sin offerings did NOT forgive “intentional sin” 
  5. פשע נשא
    Noseh peshah – forgiving transgression;  Forgiver of willful sin (pesha)–God allows even those who commit a sin with the malicious intent of rebelling against and angering Him the opportunity to repent. Proving there are “grades” of sin according to YHVH.
  1. חטאה נשא
    Noseh chatah – forgiving sin;  Forgiver of error (v’hata’ah)–God forgives a sin committed out of carelessness, thoughtlessness, or apathy. 
  2. ונקה
    Venakeh – and pardoning.  Who cleanses (v’nakeh)–God is merciful, gracious, and forgiving, wiping away the sins of those who truly repent; however, if one does not repent, God does not cleanse. Psalm 32:5 contains David confessing all 3 kinds of sins to the Lord… CLV Ps 32:5 I am now acknowledging my chatah to You, And I do not cover over my avon. I said, I shall confess against myself my peshah to Yahweh, And You, You lift away the avon of my chatah. { Interlude }

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