Before we continue with the 13 Midos in practice, let us briefly examine the power inherent in our repeatedly reciting the 13 Midos throughout S’lichos, culminating with the many repetitions in N’ilah on Yom Kippur.
- How does repeating the 13 Midos again and again help us?
- What is the basis of the guarantee of forgiveness associated with “saying” the 13 Midos?
- How can we be forgiven? Where is our t’shuvah?
- Why does the Gemara state that if they “perform” (as opposed to “say”) this order before Me, that I will forgive them?
One suggestion offered is that when we recite and repeat the words of the 13 Midos so many times with focus and mindfulness, the words will have an impact upon us. They will lead us to refine ourselves in order to become people of compassion and kindness. That is where the t’shuvah lies and why we repeat again and again. We need to drive it into our hearts and minds until we actually are performing the 13 Midos.
In addition to the words leading us to take action to become people who live the 13 Midos, there is also an independent aspect of saying the words with focus.
HaRav Chaim of Volozhin points out that the Shemoneh Esrei was formulated by the Anshei K’neses HaG’dolah (the Men of the Great Assembly) with prophecy and ruach ha’kodesh. These words contain unfathomable power. Our job is to focus on the words themselves and send them up so that they can accomplish what Hashem intends for each one.
HaRav Avigdor Miller would carry apple seeds in his pocket. He often spoke about the DNA contained in one tiny seed that could sprout into a tree, producing hundreds of apples. So, too, the words in our Shemoneh Esrei contain very powerful DNA, which will have profound impact if we are focused when we recite them.
The Maharal writes that Hashem’s “concentration” on our words is commensurate with the concentration we have while reciting them. If we are able to bear down and focus on the words, our tefilos will have far-reaching effects and bring us great connection with Hashem.
While the vast majority of us struggle with maintaining kavanah in Shemoneh Esrei (the Satan also knows of the great potential that our Shemoneh Esrei has), this technique of looking at each word before we say the word, has been proven to dramatically improve focus.
If the words of these great Tana’im and prophets have so much power embedded within them, what can we say about the words that Hashem Himself gave to us explicitly in the Torah? Who can even fathom what reciting these sanctified words of the 13 Midos with complete focus can achieve ?
The advantage we have in reciting the 13 Midos as compared to Shemoneh Esrei is that the 13 Midos contains less than 20 words, a tiny fraction of the number of words in Shemoneh Esrei. Let us do all we can to focus intently and recite these sanctified words with mind and heart.
Part 2: Midos 4-6
MIDAH 4: Rachum (Compassionate)* / LiSh’eiris Nachalaso (for the remnant of His heritage)**
*in D’varim **in Michah
Rachum: The Ibn Ezra understands Rachum to mean that Hashem protects His children from falling.
LiSh’eiris Nachalaso: Rachum dovetails nicely with the fourth midah in Michah. We are family. Hashem calls us His family numerous times. He refers to us as children. Since we are Hashem’s children, even if we have sinned, Hashem will help us to prevent us from falling. He will guide us back. If we accept His malchus and return to Him, we will be saved.
Our task: When it comes to family, even if we have been wronged, we will try to help family members who wronged us. We will do all we can to help them recognize that they hurt us and owe us an apology. We will be hoping for, aiding, and even facilitating, when possible, their return to us so we can restore the relationship.
We need to realize that all of B’nei Yisrael are our family and treat them the same as we would our own family. This should include davening to Hashem and asking Him to help those who hurt us to realize that they hurt us and to return to us and to Him.
MIDAH 5: Chanun (Gracious) / Lo Hechezik La’ad Apo (He does not maintain His wrath forever)
Chanun: If we did not accept Hashem’s guidance and assistance to return to Him, and we fell, and we are now in a painful situation, Hashem may still grant us His graciousness and save us, even though we absolutely do not deserve it.
Lo Hechezik La’ad Apo: Although we deserve to fall, Hashem will not hold on to His “anger.”
Our task: Although those who hurt us are still not acknowledging their wrongdoing and not yet making amends, we should continue to daven for them and not hold onto our anger.
MIDAH 6: Erech Apayim (Slow to Anger) / Ki Chafetz Chesed Hu (for He desires kindness)
Erech Apayim: Hashem is tolerant and delays His “anger” and consequence, waiting for us to return to Him.
Ki Chafetz Chesed Hu: Although we have sinned against Hashem in a particular area, Hashem looks for the good in us in other areas, and thereby delays His “anger” and consequence.
Our task: Although one has hurt us and angered us, we should look for the good in him in other areas of his life and use that as a motivation to continue to be patient with him, daven for him, and await his apology.
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