It is proper for man to emulate his Creator, for then he will attain the essence of the Supernal Form in both image (tzelem) and likeness (demus). For if his physical form reflects the Supernal Form, while his actions do not, he falsifies his stature. They will then say of him, “a handsome form whose deeds are ugly.” For the essential aspect of the Supernal image and likeness are His deeds. And what use will it be to him to reflect the Supernal Form physically with the likeness of the shape of his limbs, when his deeds do not emulate those of his Creator? Thus, it is proper that man emulate the functions of keser – which are the Thirteen Supernal Attributes of mercy – alluded to, in the essence of the verses (Michah 7:18-20): “Who is God like You, Who pardons iniquity and removes transgression for the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His wrath eternally for He is desirous of kindness. He will again be merciful to us, He will suppress our iniquities, and You will cast into the depths of the sea all of their sins. Grant truth to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, as You have sworn to our forefathers from days of old.” Therefore, it is proper that one should contain in himself these Thirteen Attributes. We will now explain the thirteen functions of these attributes.
Who is God like You?
This attribute teaches us that the Holy One, Blessed is He, is a forbearing King Who tolerates insult in a manner beyond human comprehension. Without doubt, nothing is hidden from His providence. In addition, there is not a moment that man is not nourished and sustained by virtue of the Divine power bestowed upon him. Thus being, no man ever sinned against G-d without G-d Himself bestowing His existence and the ability to move his limbs, at that very moment. Yet, even though a person uses this very power to transgress, He does not withhold it from him at all. Rather, the Holy One, Blessed is He, tolerates this insult and continues to bestow on him the power to move his limbs. Even at the very moment that person uses this power for transgression, sin and infuriating deeds, the Holy One, Blessed is He, continues to tolerate him. One cannot say, G-d forbid, that He cannot withhold this benevolence, for it is within His power to shrivel up a person’s arms or legs instantly, just as He did with Yaravam (See Melachim A13-4). Yet, even though it is within His power to withdraw the power that he bestowed, and He could maintain, “Since you sin against Me, sin with that which belongs to you, not with that which belongs to Me,” He does not, for this reasoning, withhold His goodness from man; rather, He tolerates the insult and continues to bestow power and benefits man with His benevolence. Behold, this is a degree of insult and tolerance of it that is immeasurable. For this reason, the ministering angels refer to the Holy One, Blessed is He, as the “Forbearing King” (Pirkei Heichalos Chapter 24). This is the meaning of the saying: “Who is G-d like You” – You are G-d Who possesses kindness, Who is benevolent. A G-d Who possesses the power to take revenge and claim what is rightfully Yours, and yet, You are tolerant and forbearing until man repents.
Thus, this attribute of being tolerant, is one that man should emulate. Even when he is insulted to such a degree (mentioned above), he should still not withdraw his benevolence from the recipient.
Divided for daily study each month with an English translation edited by Rabbi Dov Fink and Rabbi Shimon Finkelman
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