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    Divine attributes – Ki Tissa

    After the Golden Calf incident the Children of Israel needed to regain the Divine favour and rehabilitate the Divine-human covenant.

    The Book of Exodus reports the request from Moses to God, Har’eni na et derachecha, “Please show me Your ways” (Ex. 33:13).

    God’s response was an expression of self-definition, though it did not define God’s nature but His deeds: “The Lord, the Lord, God, compassionate and gracious, patient, abounding in kindness and truth, preserving kindness for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity, willful sin and error and not destroying (sinners) completely” (Ex. 34:5-7).

    Though this passage tells us something about God, Maimonides insists that God has no attributes in the normal sense of the word. Maimonides holds that we cannot really say anything certain about Him though if we resort to the via negativa (“the negative way”) we can state what He isn’t.

    To declare that He is, really denies that He is not; to say He exists negates the possibility that He is non-existent; to say He is good denies that He is evil.

    We cannot posit “attributes of essence” which would define His nature, who He really is.

    What God does have, which we can indicate in words, are “attributes of action” – not what He is, but what He does.

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