One of the most moving tunes we sing in these Days of Awe, is set to the words we recite daily in Selichos.
מכניסי רחמים הכניסו רחמינו לפני בעל הרחמים — Those who usher in mercy, shall bring our pleas for compassion, before the Lord of mercy.
Who are these conveyers of mercy that we request their assistance in arousing G-d’s compassion in judgment?
Are these angels?
Can one enlist angels to intercede on our behalf by simply asking them to?
In the Haftorah we read on Shabbos Shuva, we conclude with a series of verses from the book of Michah that present thirteen attributes of Hashem, that the Zohar reveals mirrors the Yud-Gimel Middos — the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that were revealed to Moshe by G-d, after the sin of Golden Calf, that effected atonement for that transgression.
The very first attribute is, מי א-ל כמוך — Who, O G-d, is like You.
Rav Moshe Cordevero, known as the RaMak, the great 16th century Kabbalist, in his sefer Tomer Devorah, formulates a remarkable concept regarding this attribute.
Firstly, he asserts, these middos of G-d are meant to be emulated by us, in fulfillment of the Torah’s command, ללכת בדרכיו — to walk in His path. He then goes on to explain:
Who, O G-d, is like You, instructs about the Holy One, blessed be He, being an insulted King [that] tolerates insult that is inconceivable. Behold, nothing is hidden from His oversight, without a doubt, and [yet] there is no moment when a person is not nourished and preserved by the Highest force that flows upon him; and behold, you find that there was never a person who sinned against God, without Him - at that very instant - [willing] the flow of his existence and the movement of his limbs. While this person sins with that force, He does not withhold it from him at all. Rather, the Holy One, blessed be He, tolerates such an insult - to flow the power for the movement of his limbs into the person, and the person [uses] that power at that moment for sin and iniquity, and [to] anger [Him]; and the Holy One, blessed be He, tolerates [it]... He does not withhold good from a person for this. Instead, He tolerates the insult, flows the force [to do this]and gives the person of His goodness. Behold, this is insult and [its] toleration that cannot be told... And this is [the meaning of] its stating, "Who is a power like You" - You are a Power that is a Master of Kindness that benefits, a Power that is a Master of strength to take revenge and take back what is Yours; and with all that, You tolerate [it] and are insulted until [the person] repents.
Behold, this is a trait that a person must practice — I mean tolerance; and, so, to be insulted, even to this extent, and nonetheless not to withhold one’s goodness from the recipient.
Man is expected to rise to challenge to treat kindly others who not only demeaned him, but who are the beneficiaries of his very benevolence. And yet, he is expected to continue to treat the offender; abuser; insulter, with continued generosity.
Are we expected to suffer others just because G-d suffers us and bears our ‘insults’? How does that rectify our insolence towards Him?
In our desperate efforts to achieve forgiveness before neilas shearim, the closing of the gates, we add a prayer that is only found in Neilah, where we extol of G-d’s, וימינך פשוטה לקבל שבים — extending His ‘right hand’ to accepting penitents, then going on to describe His abundant compassion we hope He will exercise on our behalf.
That paragraph begins with the words: אתה נותן יד לפשעים — You reach out a hand to willful sinners.
Rav Shlomo of Germaiza, a 11th century scholar and author, in his commentary on Siddur, understands this sentiment to be addressing how G-d enables sinners to sin, in the spirit of the adage, those who seek impurity, He leaves the door open to them.
How does this sentiment fit into the general theme of G-d’s great mercy, that we seek to effect?
One of the greatest influences in my life, Rav Avrohom Gurewitz, in his sefer on Teshuva, Ohr Avrohom, suggests that this alludes to the inspired teaching of the RaMak.
We begin by giving tribute to G-d’s benevolence in sustaining us even as we proverbially, ‘spit in His face’.
But why does he hold out despite our betrayal? Is it simply because the purpose of our world is to ‘choose right’ and be בוחר בטוב, choosing wisely, and if G-d would pull the plug whenever we go astray, it would ‘compel’ us to behave, not necessarily ‘choose’ to? If that be the case, then there is no real evidence G-d is gracious even whilst we sin, it is just the natural consequence of maintaining a world of choice.
But, in truth, G-d created that reality precisely because He holds out hope that we will ‘get it’!
His love for us never lets Him ‘give up’ on us.
We must exhibit that same level of understanding, towards those who have taken advantage of us, blinding themselves to the generosity we may have extended to them, yet still maintaining hope that one day they too will ‘get it’. We must fathom that everyone has a core of good, once we pare away the ungrateful attitudes that so often stem from personal circumstances and trauma. When we can emulate G-d’s confidence in us, in applying that attitude towards others, we too will merit that G-d will never give up on us either.
In life we will face many situations where others will seem to ignore all that we have done for them. Moments that will test our sensitivity to their station in life or the predicaments they may face. Will we rise to the occasion in emulating G-d in knocking ourselves out on their behalf? Or will we feel annoyed and bothered by their expectations of us?
‘Remember!’, the famed Mashgiach, Rav Elyah Lopian taught, ‘these people are the מכניסי רחמים, the ‘human angels’ sent down to prod us to greatness, providing us priceless opportunities to be godlike in exhibiting endless tolerance, understanding and hope for them, all the while continuing to shower them with kindness.’
Our reactions to these provocations will determine how much Hashem will hold out hope that we too will improve.
There were four requests the Kohen Gadol expressed in a short prayer as he exited the Holy of Holies after offering the Ketores, stopping briefly in the Heichal, before continuing the other aspects of the service.
One was a prayer that G-d should pay no heed to the travelers who pray for dry weather so they will not be hindered in their travels, despite the fact most of the people desperately need the rains so their crops will flourish.
Why would the Kohen Gadol worry about his selfish prayers being accepted over the more numerous and equally heartfelt appeals of the farmers?
Perhaps, on this day where we are all elevated to new heights of aligning our actions in the image of Hashem, emulating His kindness, the Kohen Gadol feared that in their generosity of spirit towards these forlorn travelers, the populace would happily accept their fate without a taint of resentment, in the spirit of this remarkable attribute of מי א-ל כמוך!
May we merit to tolerate one another, devoting ourselves to each other unconditionally, so that Hashem will continue to tolerate us by showering us with his blessings, never losing faith in our ultimate success.
גמר חתימה טובה,
צבי יהודה טייכמאן