Parsha Ki Tisah

Divine Qualities


After the debacle of the Golden Calf Moses fears that God will reject the Israelites altogether. Indeed that is precisely what God says to him

“I have seen this people to be stiff necked. Leave me to my anger with them. I will destroy them and make you a great nation” (32.9).

Moses then appeals to God with the argument that the rest of the world will take this as a sign of failure and therefore reflecting negatively on God Himself. Similarly when Abraham argues in defense of over Sodom that “Surely the Judge of the Universe should be just” we should not take literally the impression the God is somehow deficient and Moses needs to persuade Him to be a good God. This is of course poetic but meant nevertheless to give us an important message.
Moses prays, appeals to God to give them another chance. And then goes on to declare the qualities of God the Midot, that we call the “Thirteen Qualities or Characteristics of God.”

“Adonai, Adonia, El who is merciful and caring, slow to anger, full of kindness and truth (commitment) giving kindness to thousands, forgiving errors and mistakes and sins.” And the extra sentence which was first used in the Ten Commandments “He will not leave wrong doing unpunished seeing the consequences affect children and grandchildren to third and fourth generations “(Chapter 34. 6&7).

The Thirteen are the qualities of forgiveness are a crucial part of our liturgy, particularly during the penitential period of the year, Selihot and the Yamim Noraim. This does not mean there are not consequences, but the connection with God, the love and commitment remain even if it takes time to play out in history.

That is what is meant by trying to imitate God, not to imitate an object that can be seen, but to imitate goodness, the qualities that can be experienced by us and carried out in our own lives.