Compassionate Consideration

weekly Torah reading: parasha Ki Tisa 5783 – Compassionate Consideration

“And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-RD, the L-RD G-d, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth: keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” – Exodus 34:6-7

H’Shem acknowledges the broken human condition of mankind; for we ourselves are shattered vessels, not unlike those that originally contained the divine light – a microcosm of the macrocosm. Therefore, He is merciful to potential sinners, even knowing that they will, indeed, sin. This act of compassion towards those who are prone to sin, denotes the mercy associated with His name. How could frail man be treated with ill intentions by the One Who is “Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth” (Exodus 34:6)?

Rather, let this serve as a model for us human beings, within the framework of our relationships to each other; for, we may learn to be tolerant of others, who we might otherwise despise, if we, regrettably took the stance of a haughty attitude towards them. Moreover, we do not know whether or not someone will engage in unlawful (sinful) behavior; therefore, we should not judge anyone who might seem inclined towards a less than godly life.

There is hope for all, including ourselves when we fall. For H’Shem is also “Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error” (34:7).  This is our reassurance, that when we are unfaithful to the stipulations of the Sinai covenant, H’Shem is still faithful to us. Like unto His forgiveness of B’nei Yisrael, regarding the golden calf debacle, in response to the compassion that Moses elicited from Him through his prayer on behalf of the people; this is also a model for us, to seek H’Shem’s forgiveness, when we fall prey to temptation. “Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance” (Exodus 34:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).

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Diminished by Sin, Renewed by Teshuvah

“No greenery remained on the trees or the grass of the field in the entire land of Egypt.” – Exodus 10:15

It is as if to say that Egypt was deprived of its finery. Later, the Egyptian people, who had developed a sense of respect toward the Children of Israel, gave them their silver and gold vessels, as well as fine garments; thus was Egypt depleted. This is metaphorically the effect of sin upon our lives, that the corruption within eventually takes on an outward appearance, diminishing our regality as beings created in the image of G-d. Additionally, the external manifestation of sin may appear in a way, and a measure, concomitant with the aveira (sin).

Consider that even though King David was forgiven for his transgression, he was still chastised as a measure of H’Shem’s attribute of justice. Lest we think that teshuvah is too easy of a way to wipe our sins clean, perhaps, like David, we are still chastised, yet, to a lesser degree than we would have been if we were obstinate to the point of not acknowledging our sins. One might say that this is an example of the dynamic interchange of mercy and justice, working in tandem with each other, to a greater or lesser degree; and, we hope that H’Shem will always sweeten the judgment against us, by way of showing His mercy toward us.

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Purim Shpiel 5782

Walking a Tightrope

To get from one place to another, walking a fine line along the way, is not only a task enacted by a tightrope walker. In fact, I imagine that I will not be the only one attempting a “balancing act” this Purim: balancing joy & sorrow, past & present, and religion & life. Perhaps, there is no need for me to explain, and you, dear reader, are already beginning to get an inkling of what I am about to say. Purim is quickly approaching; yet, my thoughts are preoccupied with a modern-day Purim story, wherein the archvillain is intent on destruction, despite the opposition.

Abraham Heschel advocated for a Judaism that is not wrapped up in its past glory, in spite of the prevailing circumstances of life. How can I celebrate Purim in a joyous manner, knowing that a real-life situation demands my attention, prayer, and support? To go along with Purim-as-usual would create a great disconnect between what is meant to be a living faith in touch with the challenges of life and the actual challenges that present themselves, despite the timing.

The war in Ukraine will not be put on hold for the celebration of Purim. This is the stark reality that many of the Jewish refugees who have managed to cross the border know. And the unfortunate ones, who for whatever reasons are still in Ukraine, sheltering in basements, or fighting to defend their country also know this all too well. The rejoicing in Shushan and the lands of Ahasuerus did not occur until after victory was procured for the Jewish people, who were previously threatened by the evil designs of Haman.

Today, rejoicing over this past victory will in all likelihood be diminished in light of the present reality. Whatever lessons we are able to glean from Purim, I would encourage that these be applied to our response to the events of today. Otherwise, as Heschel wrote, we risk ignoring “the crisis of today,” “because of the splendor of the past” (Heschel, G-d in Search of Man, ch.1).

Ukrainian Refugees

As the situation worsens in Ukraine, Jews in Kiev were given the go ahead to travel on Shabbos in order to evacuate. A ruling similar to this had been given to the Jewish population in Miami, when an impending hurricane had been deemed dangerous enough to evacuate on the Sabbath, several years ago. Only to preserve life is such a ruling of this kind ever made and granted by a leading rabbi. When the ruling for Miami was made, it was based on one word spoken by one of the rabbonim gedolim in Israel; that one word was “sakana,” meaning “danger.” And, certainly the population of Kiev and elsewhere in the Ukraine is in danger of being caught up in harm’s way as the Russian invasion continues.

The openness of Ukraine’s neighbors, including Poland and Hungaria is a plus, inasmuch that refugees are being welcomed into these and other countries. Men between 18 and 60 who are able to defend the country are forbidden to leave, according to the Ukranian president. The rabbis of many Ukranian cities like in Kharkov and Dnipro are remaining to care for their communities. This is a commitment that many of them had made, from the onset of their tenure. The reality of remaining committed under such adverse conditions is a test of their faith in G-d, and an assurance of their faithfulness toward the communities where they preside. They also seek to bring relief to all locals in the cities where they are located. Many of them are Chabad rabbis.

His Faithfulness

parashas Ki Tisa 5782

“And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-RD, the L-RD G-d, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in kindness and truth: keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” – Exodus 34:6-7

H’Shem acknowledges the fallen human condition of mankind; therefore, He is merciful to potential sinners, even knowing that they will, indeed, sin. This act of compassion towards those who are bound to sin, denotes the mercy associated with His name. For how can frail man be treated with ill intentions by the One Who is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in kindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6)?

Rather, let this serve as a model for us human beings, within the framework of our relationships to each other; for, we may learn to be tolerant of others, who we might otherwise despise, if we took the stance of a haughty attitude towards them. Moreover, we do not know whether or not someone will engage in unlawful (sinful) behavior; therefore, we should not judge anyone who might seem inclined towards a less than godly life.

There is hope for all, including ourselves when we fall. For H’Shem is also “forgiver of iniquity, transgression, and sin” (34:7). This is our reassurance, that when we are unfaithful to the stipulations of the Sinai covenant, H’Shem is still faithful to us. Like unto His forgiveness of B’nei Yisrael, regarding the golden calf debacle, in response to the compassion that Moses elicited from Him through his prayer on behalf of the people; this is also a model for us, to seek H’Shem’s forgiveness, when we fall prey to temptation. “Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance” (Exodus 34:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Path of Kindness

B”H

Our artistic proficiency as human beings is ultimately limited in comparison to the artistic rendering of Creation by G-d. Yet, many artists over the ages, as well as more contemporary artists, even photographers, and graphic artists have made the attempt, and continue to make a concerted effort to capture the essence of G-d’s creative expression. Even more so, all of us created beings should endeavor to imitate and internalize the inner qualities of G-d, in respect to our character, especially the thirteen attributes of mercy.

“And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-RD, the L-RD, G-d, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

– Exodus 34:6-7, JPS 1917 Tanach

By adhering to these attributes in our lives, the world will become a better place; personal changes, the ones shaped within ourselves, first influence the inner person, as well as one’s immediate surroundings, for example, family, friends, and community, before having an impact further outside that social and environmental milieu. The ripple effect, could permit even one act of kindness to make waves that effect others in ways that we may never know.

The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, mentioned in scripture, are part of the liturgy for the Holy Days, requesting G-d’s forgiveness, as well as His mercy upon us. However, the prayer of the Thirteen Attributes has been added to the daily services, being performed three times a day at the Western Wall, specifically, to combat the plague of the coronavirus. This prayer is considered to be a segulah – a remedy in times of dire need. Incidentally, this prayer is traditionally only said with a minyan (quorum of ten congregants).

Yet, these actual characteristics of mercy may be reflected in everyone’s life who takes the time to make the effort to imitate G-d with respect to His qualities. This may be done through forgiveness of others, a calm forebearance towards those who we find hard to bear, and mercy towards those whom we may feel do not deserve to be shown kindness. When we forgive and forget other people’s wrongs, as well as perceived slights against our character, we permit change to occur in ourselves and others for the good. A bruised ego, set aside, creates for the potential to overlook other’s people’s faults.

“It is the discretion of a man to be slow to anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”

– Proverbs 19:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

daily contemplation: G-d’s Pity

B”H February 25, 2020 “I knew that Thou art a gracious G-d, and compassionate, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy.” – Jonah 4:2, JPS 1917 Tanach Turning away from his G-d given mission, Jonah had proffered that because G-d is merciful, He would forgive the sins of the Ninevites who were Israel’s enemies. His hard-heartedness could […]

daily contemplation: Jonah’s Lament — Clear Horizons