Rosh Hodesh Adar 1 Torah Essay
Imitatio Dei and Reciprocal Love
One of the parshiyot we read in the beginning of the month of Adar this year is parshat Ki-Tisa. Upon witnessing the Jewish people sin with the golden calf, Moshe Rabbeinu breaks the first set of luchot and returns to Har Sinai to plead with Hashem on behalf of the Jewish people. It is during this time that Hashem reveals His thirteen attributes of mercy to Moshe Rabbeinu. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 17b) teaches that Hashem didn’t just tell Moshe these attributes, but actually modeled the process of tefillah for Moshe and Bnei Yisrael!
ראש השנה י״ז:
ויעבור ה’ על פניו ויקרא א”ר יוחנן אלמלא מקרא כתוב אי אפשר לאומרו מלמד שנתעטף הקב”ה כשליח צבור והראה לו למשה סדר תפלה אמר לו כל זמן שישראל חוטאין יעשו לפני כסדר הזה ואני מוחל להם
What is unique about these attributes and why did Hashem need to actively demonstrate how they should be incorporated into tefillah? An analysis of the language at the beginning of the thirteen attributes can shed light on both of these queries. The thirteen attributes begin with a seemingly gratuitous repetition of “Hashem, Hashem”.
שמות לד:ה-ו :
וַיֵּרֶד ה’ בֶּעָנָן, וַיִּתְיַצֵּב עִמּוֹ שָׁם; וַיִּקְרָא בְשֵׁם, ה’. וַיַּעֲבֹר ה’ עַל-פָּנָיו, וַיִּקְרָא, ה’ ה’, אֵ-ל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן–אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, וְרַב-חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת.
Rashi comments on the name of Hashem being written twice in pasuk six, and teaches that the first time represents that Hashem will be with the Jewish people before they sin, while the second time shows Hashem will be with them after they sin as well.
This however, is not the first context in the Torah in which Hashem expresses a double name; the names of a few characters in Tanakh are doubled as well. One example is when an angel of Hashem calls to Avraham Avinu as he prepares to sacrifice his beloved son, Yitzchak, to fulfill the will of Hashem. The angel calls out: Avraham, Avraham. Rashi explains that the double language of Avraham, Avraham is one of love and intimacy, דרך חיבה. As Avraham raises his hand to kill his son, Hashem sends an angel to lovingly lower Avraham’s hand, to ease the tension and save him the agony of going through with this painful act. Avraham is receptive to this call and willingly responds with “Hineini”. It seems as if the love expressed in the double name elicits Avraham’s affirmative response. This ‘formula’ may perhaps be applied to other instances in Tanakh in which Hashem calls to different individuals in times of distress (see Bereishit 46:2 (Yaakov, Yaakov) Shemot 3:4 (Moshe, Moshe) Shmuel I 3:10 (Shmuel, Shmuel)).
Each time the double name is employed, the person being called responds attentively, often with the language of Hineini – alacrity and readiness. Perhaps the double name of Hashem in the context of the thirteen attributes of mercy is meant to remind us of the way that Hashem called to His servants, and teach us to mimic this call as we cry to Him. We are meant to mirror the לשון חיבה of Hashem and call to Him with that same kind of loving repetition. Calling out to Hashem in times of pain or uncertainty can often feel more like a desperate plea than a yearning for closeness. Perhaps this is a reminder for us not to be so consumed by our needs when reaching out to Hashem that we lose sight of the personal relationship we are trying to attain and maintain.
Hashem teaches Moshe and us that the perfect introduction to prayer is to state upfront that our goal is to seek a loving relationship with “Hashem, Hashem”. If Hashem had just revealed the attributes without the introductory phrase of love, we may have thought that they were a magical formula for salvation from crisis. Instead, Hashem wrapped Himself in a tallit and demonstrated the power of tefillah as a means of eliciting and enhancing a loving response and relationship. Each time we call out, as Hashem did, with the double name, we are reminded to seek and strengthen the presence of Hashem in our lives. Hashem assures us that when we do, we evoke anticipation for Hashem to respond affirmatively to our cries with Hineini.