Weekly Torah Commentary — Ki Tisa February 14, 2014

Ki Tisa Exodus 30:11 – 34:35

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed: “The LORD! the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin…” Exodus 34:6-7

Human beings have consistently yearned to know God, to be close to the Divine. Down numerous mental and philosophical paths, man has tried to understand God’s omnipresence, God’s power, God’s identity, God’s relationship to the world and even God’s name.

Our finite minds cannot comprehend His unutterable greatness, but we do know that we are b’tzelem Elohim (made in God’s image) and so can be taught to emulate God in order to live a truly spiritual life, striving to act as God acts, to be righteous, to reflect His nature and character in our daily living.

The Rabbinic Sages took the Divine characteristics outlined in Ki Tisa in Exodus 34:6-7a and codified God’s qualities, naming them the “Thirteen Attributes of Mercy”. These attributes were proclaimed by God to Moses after the shameful incident with the Golden Calf, when Moses pleaded to know God’s nature.

The Rabbis included these verses in the High Holy Day and Festival Torah Service liturgies to inspire and remind us how deeply God cares for us. When the Ark is open during the synagogue service and we stand before the Torah scrolls, symbolically at Sinai, we recite these God-like qualities with awe and humility:

Mercy (both before and after wrong-doing), compassion, graciousness, being slow to anger and endlessly patient, abounding in kindness, truth, remembering our merits, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and granting pardon.

Here in capsulated form is the model for godly character, holy living. Here is described the traits that mark a person who knows he/she was created in God’s image and is devoted to living that reality.

We are taught to commit these words to memory and when we repent, to approach Avinu Malkenu (our Father, our King)with these words on our lips. As nothing is more God-like than mercy, compassion and forgiveness, we in turn reflect His nature – perhaps the most intensely – when we forgive anyone who has hurt or offended us.

Anger has damaged many a life and even taken lives. Learning to be “slow to anger and endlessly patient” is perhaps one of the greatest achievements of any man or woman.

In Tune with Torah this week = how are we doing in manifesting the traits of our loving Father and King in our own lives? Are we readily kind towards others? Or irritable? Are we easily compassionate? Or judgmental? Do we forgive readily? Or hold on to bitterness and grudges? This week, God is calling to each of us to remember why we were born. May we grow in His image and likeness day by day.

Shabbat Shalom

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