Shabbos Chol HaMoed

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

Shabbos Chol HaMoed

The special Torah reading for this Shabbat during Chol HaMo-eid Pesach, the intermediate days of Passover, is Exodus 33:12-34:26, which includes the 13 “Attributes of God.” (Exodus 34:6-7)  Maimonides, following the early midrashic work, Sifrei, argued that the section would be better known as the 13 d’rachim, “ways” of God; or, better still, ways that we can embrace to be god-like… The place of the 13 Attributes in the text of the Torah is important. They appear just after the story of the Golden Calf. Seeing what the people have done in his absence, Moses smashes the first set of tablets. Punishment is then exacted upon the guilty Levites and a general plague serves as a further scourge among the people. Only then does Moses go back up Mt Sinai and cut a second set of tablets. The Eternal One, the Torah reports, passes before Moses and proclaims (according to the prayer book version of the passage): “Adonai, Adonai, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and granting pardon” (Mishkan T’filah, [NY: CCAR, 2007], p. 496).   What is most remarkable about this passage are these attributes. God is not called holy or commanding or jealous. This is a God who self-describes as being “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and granting pardon…” In these days of sheltering in place, staying cooped up at home, in many cases with our family around us a bit more often than we are used to… there is much that we can learn from this passage. 

  • When it becomes a bit overwhelming, make an effort to stop… and remember to feel or show sympathy and concern for others. 
  • When we are ready to say something a bit too quickly, it might help to take a breath, and think about how we can be courteous, kind, and pleasant.
  • When we’re reacting too quickly in a negative way, perhaps we can s-l-o-w down, and temper our anger.
  • We can model for our children how to be generous, and considerate.
  • We can put loyalty into consistent practice regardless of extenuating circumstances.
  • And we can be kind… and forgiving… 

You get the picture.  These are challenging times. God’s list of attributes/ways can certainly be a list that we can post to help us navigate through the days and weeks… and time ahead.

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