Excerpt Taken from Ranebi’s Message on Nisan 17, 5780
Pesach: A Festival of Thanksgiving
From Exodus 34:6-7, where the LORD is speaking to Moshe, our sages have drawn a beautiful teaching called “The 13 Attributes of the Bore Olam”. Let’s examine them and put them into today’s context.
ו וַיַּעֲבֹר יְהוָה עַל-פָּנָיו, וַיִּקְרָא, יְהוָה יְהוָה, אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן–אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, וְרַב-חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת.
ז נֹצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים, נֹשֵׂא עָוֺן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָּאָה; וְנַקֵּה, לֹא יְנַקֶּה–פֹּקֵד עֲוֺן אָבוֹת עַל-בָּנִים וְעַל-בְּנֵי בָנִים, עַל-שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל- רִבֵּעִים.
6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘ LORD, LORD, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; 7 keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation.
The first and second attribute: 1. יְהוָה 2. יְהוָה YHVH – YHVH, LORD – LORD means that He manifests Himself in His fullness; He is personal with each of us and is a majestic God. He created each of us to be in relationship with Him, not in religion, and not to make us His slaves.
The Third attribute: 3. אֵל El – God Almighty is the One in charge; He is in control. Because the Creator allows us to be in charge of our lives, due to His gift of Free Will to us, it doesn’t mean that we are in total control.
The Fourth: 4 רַחוּם Rachum. God is compassionate, especially to those who are poor (down) in spirit, downhearted, who have no hope, needy – He is merciful.
The Fifth: 5. חַנּוּן Chanoon. He is gracious and generous; He gives us far more than we deserve. Truly we are undeserving of His grace.
The Sixth: 6. אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם Erech Apayim. He is long-suffering. He has so much patience with us. I have a bad temper for which I am constantly asking Him for help. If He had my temper, I think none of us would still be alive. He is slow in anger, always waiting for our teshuvah – for us to return to Him.
The Seventh: 7. רַב-חֶסֶד Rav Chesed. He has abundant kindness, goodness; He is so much kinder to us than we are to ourselves and toward each other. It is very important to understand that He is kind to the unrighteous as well as to the righteous. If He wasn’t, most of the world’s population would have disappeared long ago.
The Eighth: 8. אֱמֶת Emet. Rabbi Yeshua’s teaching on Emet, Truth is beautiful; he said, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free”. The Hebrew understanding of Emet is very different than the Western way of thinking. It directly refers to the Creator who sets us free from the slavery of our mind, our ego when we come to know Him, truly and intimately. He was not speaking about doctrine, dogma, form or religion all of which makes us more into slaves than free. Yeshua was speaking about the Bore Olam upon whom we can depend.
The Ninth: 9. נֹצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים Notzer Chesed La’alaphim. The Creator extends His grace and kindness to the thousandth generation (alluding to the eternal, rather than the third or fourth generation which refers to a period of time). He allows us a long time to turn back to Him. Let’s use this time to change some of our bad habits and redo our lives. There is the concept in Judaism that God takes into account the “zechut” – זכות, the merits of our forefathers, of those good people who have gone before us, parents, grandparents, teachers, even friends who have led a worthy life. The idea is that their merits can count for us has been lost in other cultures.
The Tenth: 10. נֹשֵׂא עָוֺן Nosei Avon. God forgives our iniquities, our “unintentional” wrongdoing. He also forgives our intentional, premeditated ones, however, only if we go to Him and do teshuvah.
The Eleventh: 11. פֶשַׁע Fesha means rebellion. This is when we are so proud that we don’t want to follow anyone’s advice thinking that we know better than anyone else. The only way to reverse this is to acknowledge who we truly are and ask for help.
The Twelfth: 12. חַטָּאָה Chataat. Although it translated as sin, a better translation would be “missing the mark”. It means that although we try to do something right, it often ends up wrong. The key is to acknowledge it after which it can be rectified.
The Thirteenth: 13.נַקֵּה Nakeih means visit. The full expression is יְנַקֶּה–פֹּקֵד עָוֺן Y’nakeih paked avon: “Visiting the iniquities of”…meaning God will visit us in our time of distress and forgive us, erase the consequences of our misdeeds…when we are truly repentant.
Other religions will soon be celebrating Easter in which a sacrificial shedding of blood allows them to be forgiven for their sins. The Torah teaches us clearly that the Creator is the only One who forgives sin. There are no sacrifices that can forgive sin. The only way is to go directly to Him, in humility, acknowledging our shortcomings, confessing them, and being ready to make restitution. Each of us is responsible for our own actions. We cannot put the blame on anyone else. That is simply passing the buck.
Pesach is a festival of Shelamim Todah, of Thanksgiving to God for everything that He has done for us. It was never meant for the forgiveness of sins. The book of Exodus clearly shows us that God delivered Israel not because they were good but because He was gracious and merciful. Not one of them asked for forgiveness, confirmed later with the Egel Zahav, Golden Calf.
Chapters 33 – 34 are read during this time because our sages wanted to teach us that we cannot get away with anything before God; we need to return to Him. Our Creator constantly asks us to do that, to be in community, to help each other and Pesach is the perfect time to do that. It is my prayer that we learn to be better people, transparent with the Creator and to ask Him to put us on the right path. I end with my favorite Psalm 139 which tells us to search within to see if there are any obstacles that get in our way of having a relationship with Him and asking Him to help us to overcome them.
Chag Pesach Sameach