Month of Mercy
HaRav Dov Begon, Head of Machon Meir
We are now in Elul, the month of repentance and mercy. What is this mercy that we are in such great need of in general, and especially at this time? Ramchal [Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto] explains in his work Mesillat Yesharim:
“G-d rules over His world with Strict Judgment, responding measure for measure to our deeds. However a person conducts himself, that is how G-d treats him. G-d watches over everything, large or small, and rewards a person according to his works: ‘G-d declares to man what is his speech’ (Amos 3:13). Even a man’s light conversation with his wife is declared to him at his judgment. ‘For G-d shall bring every work into the judgment concerning every hidden thing, whether it be good or evil’ (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
“‘Strict judgment’ means that G-d judges everything, and that He punishes for every sin, and we cannot escape. If G-d is strict regarding every sin, what then is ‘mercy’? ‘Mercy’ refers to the continued existence of the universe, for without mercy, the universe could not continue to exist. This trait represents G-d going beyond the letter of the law with us.
“With strict judgment, it would be appropriate for a sinner to be punished immediately upon sinning. Moreover, the punishment would be divine wrath appropriate for someone who rebels against G-d, and it would be impossible for him to ever rectify his sin. After all, once someone has sinned, once he has murdered or committed adultery, how can he make amends? Seemingly, it is impossible to remove something from existence.
“Thus the trait of mercy provides the opposite result of that obtained from Strict Judgment. First of all, it provides the sinner with time, such that he is not punished immediately. Also, the punishment itself is not carried out with overwhelming wrath. The person’s rectification, i.e., his repentance, is treated with complete kindness. That is, if someone fully regrets his act and takes upon himself not to repeat it, his uprooting his will that brought him to sin is then treated as though he had uprooted the deed from existence. It is the same as when one nullifies a vow, where the vow is uprooted from existence. As the prophet said (Isaiah 6:7), ‘Your iniquity shall be taken away and your sin expiated.’ The sin is removed from existence. This represents total kindness beyond the letter of the law.” (Mesillat Yesharim Ch. 4).
G-d treats His creatures mercifully, i.e., patiently, allowing them an opportunity to make amends, and going beyond the letter of the law. We as well must follow G-d’s ways. Just as G-d is merciful, so must we be merciful. Just as He is kind, so must we be kind. We must make a great effort to make peace with our fellow man. We must make peace within the family, husbands with wives, and children with parents. We must find a way to achieve peace within our nation, without conceding the least bit on the truth of Torah and our belief that Eretz Yisrael belongs only to the Jewish People. Valor and wisdom in life consist of living together despite disagreements. That is how it is in the individual family, and that is how it is within the Jewish People. Through this, may we merit G-d’s mercy in judgment, and may through us be fulfilled the words of the prayer: “Rule over us speedily, O G-d, alone, in kindness and mercy.”
Let the year and its curses end and let the new year and its blessings begin.