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    13 Divine Attributes – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. The High Holyday prayers constantly mention God’s 13 Attributes – “The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious God…” Why?

    A. By means of this passage from Exodus 34:6-7 we affirm that we have a kindly God who understands His creatures and treats them compassionately.

    We also remind ourselves that if we want God to be compassionate towards us we have to emulate His compassion in our dealings with other human beings.

    There is a second version of the 13 Attributes that comes in the Tashlich ceremony and at the end of the Yom Kippur afternoon haftarah. It is from the Book of Micah (7:18-20) and reads: “Who is a God like You who pardons iniquity and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not remain angry for ever, for He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities – You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You promised our fathers in days of old.”

    Tashlich probably derives from the reference to casting our sins into the sea. On the words, “The remnant of His heritage”, Moshe Cordovero’s “Tomer D’vorah” suggests we link she’erit (remnant) with she’er (flesh) to show how close God feels to us and how close we should be to our fellow human beings.

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