Saturday, September 15, 2018

Teshuva - The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy

The Thirteen Attributes of Compassion (or as they are often called Mercy) as outlined in the biblical book of Exodus 34:6-7, are intimately tied into the spirituality of the Hebrew month of Elul and the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and by extension the whole concept of teshuvah. They are never recited by an individual, but only as part of a minyan. When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to pray to G-d for forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d revealed them to Moses, telling him that Jews can receive forgiveness through teshuvah by reciting them at the appointed times during the year.

There is some disagreement regarding the words and phrases of the various attributes. Some seem either identical or very similar. They apply to all sorts of people with varying degrees of merit so there are a multitude of shades and nuances.

The number thirteen is significant. The Hebrew word Echad - which means Unity , when spelled out in Hebrew letters, totals thirteen in the gematria system indicating that even though there are thirteen attributes, G-d's unity is perfect. He is One. These attributes of mercy play an integral part in the chassidic parable of the King (G-d) who goes from his Castle (Heaven) out into the field (the reality of our material world) to greet his subjects (the Jews) and encourage them to come to Him. They do not, however, actually motivate man's divine service. They only generate the potential for it.

The thirteen attributes are:
(1) HaShem - G-d's name indicating Mercy before sin
(2) HaShem - Mercy after sin
(3) Keil - another of G-d's names indicating Strength
(4) Rachum - Compassionate
(5) v'Chanun - Gracious
(6) Erech Appayim - Slow to anger
(7) v'Rav Chesed - Abundant in Kindness
(8) v'Emet - Trustworthy
(9) Notzer Chesed La'alafim - Preserver of Kindness for thousands [of generations]
(10) Noser Avon - Forgiver of iniquity
(11) vaFesha - Forgiver of willful sin
(12) v'Chata'ah - Forgiver of careless sin
(13) v'Nakkeh - Aquitter  of all sins of those sincerely repentant.

Following is a set of photos taken during the Havdalah ritual at the end of Shabbat on September 8th.