T'shuva: We can know a lot, but not everything

We don't know why G-d created the world, nor why He gave us free will, but we can hopefully see and understand the gift of T'shuva.

Phil Chernofsky ,

Slichot at the Western Wall.
Slichot at the Western Wall.

I'm in the middle of a book by Rabbi Ezra Bick. It is a beautiful work on the YUD-GIMEL MIDOT, the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy - called, In His Mercy. I highly recommend the sefer.

This Lead Tidbit is using some of the material in the open chapter as a springboard.

With S'lichot in full swing as of this writing, and with the longest S'lichot session for Erev Rosh Hashanah coming up, and for Aseret Y'mei T'shuva, and the Day of S'lichot - Yom Kippur just around the corner, I call your attention to Rashi's comment on the first two words of the YUD-GIMEL MIDOT - HaShem, HaShem... Rashi quotes the gemara Rosh Hashanah 17b - This refers to the Divine attribute of Mercy, the first Name alludes to G-d's having mercy on the person before he sins, and the second Name refers to G-d's Mercy on the sinner after he has sinned... and repented.

Rabbi Bick explains that the mercy of G-d before sinning can refer to the Creation of the World from nothing- ness. Before the world was created, only G-d existed. He has no needs and therefore, He did not have to create the world at all. He did so as an act of mercy for all of humankind (and for all creatures).

With His decision to give humans Free Will, the possibility (probability) of sin came into existence. The potential for sin as a result of Free Will is counterproductive, so to speak, to G-d's Will. But the second Name is also an act of mercy, because with Free Will comes accountability, and then, the concept of T'shuva.

We don't know why G-d created the world, nor why He gave us Free Will, but we can hopefully see and understand that the gift of the opportunity to do T'shuva is the greatest act of Divine Mercy.

Rambam's Hilchot T'shuva presents many facets of T'shuva in about half of its 10 chapters. The other half is devoted to Free Will, accountability, and Reward and Punishment, including the concept of Olam HaBa.

The heavy warnings of Ki Tavo's Tochacha give way to the uplifting messages of Nitzavim, the sedra that is always read on the last Shabbat of the year, right before Rosh Hashanah.

Actually, the Tochacha lingers from last week into the beginning of Nitzavim. But what follows allows our moods be be lifted as we will soon celebrate Creation and the coronation of G-d as King of the Universe. Among other things, Nitzavim tells us that we can know a lot, but not everything, that T'shuva is well within our grasps, that He will help us with it. That He gives us Free Will but coaches our choices. All we need to do is listen.