Parshat Ki Tisah Shmos 34:6 – Hashem’s relationship to sinners

Parshat כי תישא  Exodus 34:6 – Hashem’s relationship to sinners

Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth;

Exodus 34:7 keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and unto the fourth generation.

Rosh Hashanah (17b): [Why does the verse say “The LORD the LORD”?].  I am The LORD before a person sins.  I am The LORD after a person sins.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #5:

At first glance this requires further investigation.  Why does a person need divine mercy before sinning?  Perhaps to help the person so as not to sin.  As the verse states [7:20]: For there is not a righteous man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.   Therefore every person needs some help.

Tosafot, on this passage of the Talmud writes[1], ” Megilat Setarim[2] of Rabeinu Nissim does not include the first occurrence of ‘The LORD’ when citing this passage of Talmud because there is a separation between the two instances of The LORD.  The verse means that the Holy One Blessed is He, whose name is The LORD, called out, ‘The LORD , merciful and gracious …’.  Because of this, Megilat Setarim counts keeping mercy for thousands of generations as two attributes”  A proof for this is what is written in Parshat Shelach [Numbers 14: 17-18]: Moses says “And now, I pray Thee, let the power of the LORD be great, according as Thou hast spoken, saying: The LORD is slow to anger, and plenteous in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.”  This fits well with what Megilat Setarim says.  Since the first The LORD refers to Hashem speaking, it makes sense that when Moses repeats what Hashem said, he only mentioned The LORD once [take note].

Know that in Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer, end of chapter 46, it says: “Moses started crying out The LORD, the LORD, God, merciful and gracious … please forgive the iniquity of the Children of Israel regarding the golden calf.”  This midrash holds that Moses said all 13 attributes not Hashem.  Thus the verb he called refers to Moses.  This needs further analysis based on the verse in Numbers, cited above, that explicitly states that the Hashem said them as Moses utters after the incident with the spies “As You spoke saying: The LORD merciful and gracious …”  Furthermore, the language in Exodus [34:8]: “And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” implies that what transpired above was not referring to Moses.  Rabeinu David Luzato, in his commentary to Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer, brings proof for the midrash from the Talmud Yoma (36b) stating that Moses said “forgiving iniquity and transgression”.  There is no proof from here because elsewhere in the Talmud we see statements attributed to Moses, which he clearly did not utter, such as, (Yevamoth 49b): “Moses said ‘no mortal shall see Me and live’ (Exodus 33:20)”  The Talmud attributes the statement to Moses because he wrote it in the Torah.  Similarly here (Yoma 36b).  Perhaps the intent of the Talmud (Yoma 36b) referring to Moses saying “forgiving iniquity and transgression” is, as we shall see, that Moses asks Hashem, when the Children if Israel sin, He should treat intentional sins as unintentional sins, provided that they repent.  Thus Moses actually said “forgiving iniquity and transgression.”

It appears that the Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer refers to Moses beseeching Hashem after the incident with the spies.  This is supported by the verse sited at the end of the midrash “The LORD said ‘I have forgiven as you requested.'”, which is also written by the incident with the spies.  There is no contradiction when the midrash refers to Moses crying out about the iniquity of the golden calf because Moses addresses the root of Hashem’s anger, the iniquity of the golden calf, as the verse says (Exodus 32:34): “nevertheless in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

Still it is not clear how the midrash infers that Moses cried out in a loud voice?  Perhaps Rabbi Eliezer (the author of Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer and the great sage Rabbi Eliezer are the one and the same) is consistent with his opinion in the Talmud [Berachot 32a]: When the verse (Exodus 32:11) says: “And Moses besought the LORD …” it teaches Moses stood in prayer until he was overcome by shuddering[3].  The Talmud says that אחילו literally means fire of the bones, which Tosafot explains means a great fervor.  It is well known that one who speaks with such great excitement, such as this, is not aware of oneself and often begins shouting in a loud voice. [This may be the reason for the custom of saying the 13 attributes aloud when praying as a congregation.]

Editor’s Note: This note shows his incredible knowledge of the rabbinic sources (Talmud and midrash).  He could have ended the commentary after the citing the passage from Tosafot, yet he felt compelled to mention the apparently contradictory midrash from Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer so that he could reconcile this midrash with the Talmud Yoma and the commentary of Tosafot.  While many people will ignore such contradictions, noting that many midrashim appear to be contradictory, the Torah Temimah cited the midrash in order to reconcile what appears to be contradictory statements of the Rabbis of blessed memory.  In reconciling the two sources, he infers a reason why, when praying as a congregation, we say the 13 attributes aloud.


[1] Rosh Hashanah 17b o.v. 13 Attributes: Rabeinu Tam says the first Two names of Hashem are two attributes (out of the 13) as the Talmud says here: “I am Hashem before a person sins to have mercy on the person and I have mercy after the person sins provided the person repents.  Hashem is the attribute of mercy unlike Elokim, which is the attribute of judgment. [Thus there are two different attributes of mercy].  Iniquity (עון), transgression (פשע), sin (חטא) and cleansing (נקה) are counted as another 4 attributes as the Talmud in Yoma 36b expounds: Iniquity refers to intentional sins.  Transgression refers to rebellious acts.  Sin refers to unintentional sins.  However, Megilat Setarim of Rabeinu Nissim does not count the first Hashem because there is a separation between the two names of Hashem, that is, the Holy One blessed is He, whose name is Hashem called, “Hashem is merciful and gracious ”  Keeping mercy unto thousands of generation is then counted as two attributes.  Keeping mercy is one.  For thousands of generations is another 500 times greater that the attribute retribution.  Retribution to 4 generations.  Keeping mercy for 200 generations (five times greater than 4)

[2] A book written by Rav Nissim Gaon, parts of which have been discovered from the Cairo Geniza .  The book includes 250 symbols representing all the questions asked.  Also includes a commentary of halakhic questions in the Talmud.  This book has been translated and published by Rabbi Yosef Kapach .

[3] Hebrew: אחילו from the same root as ויחל

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.