וַיַּֽעֲבֹ֨ר יְהֹוָ֥ה | עַל־פָּנָיו֘ וַיִּקְרָא֒ יְהֹוָ֣ה | יְהֹוָ֔ה אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶֽאֱמֶֽת: נֹצֵ֥ר חֶ֨סֶד֙ לָֽאֲלָפִ֔ים נֹשֵׂ֥א עָוֹ֛ן וָפֶ֖שַׁע וְחַטָּאָ֑ה וְנַקֵּה֙ לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֔ה פֹּקֵ֣ד | עֲוֹ֣ן אָב֗וֹת עַל־בָּנִים֙ וְעַל־בְּנֵ֣י בָנִ֔ים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֖ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִֽים:
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed: Lord, Lord, benevolent God, Who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth, preserving loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin; yet He does not completely clear [of sin] He visits the iniquity of parents on children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generations.”Exodus 34:6-7
This week’s Torah portion contains yet another pivotal moment in the history of the children of Israel, the Golden calf. The conclusion of the Golden calf incident is that through Moses’ intercession, Hashem forgives the children of Israel. Moses then pronounces the 13 attributes of God, as expressed in Exodus 34:6-7.
The 13 attributes are the mainstay of the understanding of Hashem’s relationship with the children of Israel. Each year, leading up to, and all through the days of awe, we recite the 13 attributes repeatedly. We remind ourselves, beginning with the Selichot service, that Hashem is a God of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.
Moses recites the 13 attributes in response to the fact that Hashem forgives Israel. Remember that all of Israel is at Sinai, both those there and those not there. This includes you and I, all everywhere and all who will be. The sin of the Golden calf rests on all of us, those that are there, and those that are not there. Hashem’s grace and mercy, likewise, rests on those there and those not there.
It is with this in mind that we recite the 13 attributes. The God of Tanakh is the God of grace and mercy. Likewise, the God of the Brit Chadasha is a God of grace and mercy. They are the same.
The 13 attributes point out that although Hashem forgives us, the consequences of our sin affect us, even to the 3rd and 4th generations. Hashem’s forgiveness does not mean we may sin without consequences. This holds true with all believers in Yeshua. Hashem forgives us, however, there are consequences to sin. Just like there are national consequences to Israel for the sin of the Golden calf, there are individual consequences to sin by individuals, even today. Forgiveness does not mean we are automatically relieved of the consequences of sin. So, as grace in given through Yeshua the Messiah, we must strive to not lean on that grace. Hashem loves obedience over sacrifice. Shabbat shalom.