Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."


Merciful Father: mercy, love and liberation

by Eugene Narrett, Ph.D.

You set man apart from the beginning and You considered him worthy to stand before You…

This verse from the closing Jewish prayer service on Yom Kippur is among the great indices of the Creator’s love and mercy;

And You gave us with love, Hashem our God, this day of atonement…” [1]

In the fiftieth year, in the Yovel (“Jubilee”) year, Israel sounds the teruah on the shofar to “proclaim freedom throughout the land…in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, the Day of Atonement you shall sound the shofar throughout the land” and “you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage” (Leviticus 25:8-16).

The Day of Atonement, Yom HaKippurim contains the joy of this freedom and, the sages teach, the joy of Sabbath and the fullness and nearness of the Creator. This overtone or “harmonic” of freedom, this return to the ground of all the commandments, the land, suffuses every Day of Atonement and cleansing of sin, “untying the bundled knot” and the return to his inheritance; every man of Israel, a paradigm for a shackled mankind.

We are all in varying degrees in bondage of grief, pain, confusion or worse. Thus one addresses the Creator Who Was, Who Is, and Who Will Be, the One the Unborn and the Undying and pleads, “turn to my outcry, let my prayer be pleasant, listen to my entreaty as if it were a perfect entreaty.” In Judaism “we are mindful that we are dust” though made “but slightly less than the angels and crowned with soul and splendor” (psalm 8).

“O God, King Who sits on the throne of mercy; Who acts with kindness, pardons the sins of His people…Who deals righteously with every living being – You taught us to recite the Thirteen [attributes of Mercy] so remember for us today the covenant of these Thirteen that You made known to the humble one [Moshe, cf. Deut. 12:3] in ancient times… and Hashem descended in a cloud and stood with him there, and He called out with the Name, Hashem; and Hashem passed before Moshe and proclaimed:

‘Hashem, Hashem, God Compassionate and Merciful, Slow to anger and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of iniquity, willful sin and error, and Who cleanses’” but does not cleanse by magic, as if waving a wand, but through human reaching out and deeds as well as in abundant kindness (“the Thirteen Names of Mercy,” Exodus 34:5-7).

The Jew beseeches the Creator, “turn and involve Yourself in the good of those who hope to You for You, Hashem, are a shield for me” (Psalm 3:4. cf. Exodus 15:1). The Eternal One is “a God of faith, fair and righteous, perfect in all his works” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

One should remember that all references to Hashem refer to the Eternal One, Unborn and Undying Whose energies are discussed in “Jacob’s Ladder.” These are the energies of mercy, giving, and life that constitute and sustain the world as silence and sound, time and eternity, running and returning; being and becoming intersect and are contained in vital harmony, the pattern for man and woman.

The sages teach that a “day” is less a temporal measure than a unit of spiritual potential. A day ends as twilight merges toward evening and a new day begins in gathering darkness. The prayers of this holy “day,” beginning in the darkness and accessing the ultimate creative and loving light within the well of darkness from which the universe pours are prayers of and for love and liberation, for life and peace, for Jews and all the world. “And may You with Your abundant mercy have mercy on us because You do not desire the world’s destruction.” No wonder the hierarchs of our day, throughout the modern era have wanted to destroy the Jews, committing genocidal slander and then genocide against those who want life, creativity, joy and peace: who acknowledge their contingency and the infinite might and wisdom of the Creator. So it has always been.

I have placed my reliance on the Thirteen Attributes, and on the gates of tears for they are never closed,” – they will matter; they are counted and an accounting will be made. “And therefore I have poured out my prayer to Him Who tests hearts. I trust in these and in the merit of the three Patriarchs… rescue us from all cruel decrees… Open the gates of heaven and open for us your bountiful treasure…” [2]

1. Atah hivdalta enosh… Neila service at the end of Yom Kippur from Complete Art Scroll Machzor, Yom Kippur, trans R’ Nosson Scherman (1986;1993), 761

2 ibid. 787