Here recently I have begun to take a closer look at what is being said in Genesis 9 and the Seven Commandments of the Creator. Sometimes I find myself lost in the world of one word or phrase of a verse. I am one who will dig the meaning of things out; I have many Jewish and non-Jewish friends in whom I seek out the meanings of Hebrew and English words, so I can get a better grasp on what is being said.
One of the books I am recently reading mentioned a particular verse that stopped me in my tracks to ponder what it was saying. As I pondered it, it led me to a phrase in one of the verses where we get the prohibition of murder.
First the verse that stopped me in the book I am reading.
You shall not commit a perversion of justice; you shall not favor the poor and you shall not honor the great; with righteousness shall you judge your fellow. (Artscroll Chumash)
By pondering the above verse, it led me to reexamine the verse below but only the underlined portion.
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man. (www.mechon-mamre.org)
As I pondered being created in the image of the Creator, I came to the conclusion that if one would ponder this statement long and hard enough that it, the statement about being created in the Creators image would touch all of our commands in some way or another.
Then came along Jacob of (http://beingnoahide.com/) in a question hit the nail on the head for me. With what he brought up tied the loose ends up for me that I will show in detail later on. But first his question and answer that really got me to pondering even more.
Jacob asked, “Did anyone notice the connection between this last Parshah (Ki Tisa) and Sepher Yonah (the Book of Jonah)? A special lesson for non-Jews.”
Jacob’s answer was, “In Shemoth 34:6-7, we find the ultimate revelation to Moshe of how Hashem acts in the world (aka the 13 Attributes of Mercy). Now, one might think to himself, “Perhaps this is only how Hashem deals with the Jewish people, but with other people’s He only relates to them as a strict Judge.”
However, in Sepher Yonah 4:2, after Hashem accepts the repentance of Nineweh, when the Prophet Yonah explains to Hashem why he is angry about that, he literally quotes the 13 Attributes. In effect, he saying, “I didn’t want to come here because I knew that this (the 13 Attributes of Mercy) is how you deal with all humanity.”
That was my missing link, the attributes of the Creator. He told them to Moses first then Jonah came along and was sent to a gentile city to warn of its destruction. Knowing the Creator and His attributes, if the city was to repent, then the Creator would show mercy and not destroy it.
The list of the Creator’s attributes as they are told to Israel through Moses.
Exodus 34: 6-7
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; 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.’
The mentioning of the attributes of the Creator by the Israelite Prophet Jonah, who was sent to a gentile city to tell of its destruction because of their sin.
In this listing I will also provide a commentary on the attributes as found in the Artscroll Tanach Series Jonah.
And God saw their deeds, that they repented from their evil way; and God relented concerning the calamity He has said He would bring upon them and did not act. (Artscroll Tanach Series)
This displeased Jonah and it grieved him. He prayed to Hashem, and said: ‘Please Hashem, was this not my contention when I was still on my own soil? I therefore had to hasten to flee to Tarshish for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and relentful of punishment. (Artscroll Tanach Series)
From the commentary, Artscroll Tanach Series Jonah:
“Praiseworthy are the righteous who turn the Attribute of Justice into the Attribute of Mercy… as we find And Elohim (i.e. in His Attribute of Justice) remembered Noah.]” pages 130-131.
“Jonah knew that Forgiveness was one of God’s characteristics.” pg. 134
“El – God, Rashi, in commenting on the use of this Name among God’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Exodus 34:6) notes that, in this context, ‘El’ [unlike ‘Elohim’ which describes God a Just] refers to His Attribute of Mercy. Ibn Ezra there interprets that it means ‘powerful’ to act as His wisdom dictates [i.e., to be merciful even though strict justice might dictate otherwise].” pg. 134
“Gracious – To assist those who have fallen but cannot rise (Ibn Ezra to Exodus 34:6); to reward those who are not fully deserving (Sforno, ibid.).” pg. 134
“And compassionate – [or merciful.] – Like a father to his children to prevent them from falling (Ibn Ezra, ibid.); to lighten the punishment when the sinner calls You (Sforno, ibid.)” pg. 134
“Slow to anger [lit. long of anger.] You defer Your anger, and in the hope that the sinner will repent, You do not hasten to punish him (Rashi, ibid.)” pg. 134
“[And] abounding in kindness. – To those who are need of His kindness because they lack merit (Rashi to Exodus 34:6); according to Ibn Ezra this kindness extends both to the righteous and to the wicked.” pg. 134
Being Created in the image of the Creator is one of those phrases that many read and think, “How nice” but never examine it very close to find out what it all entails
When pondering being created in the Creator’s image, all one has to do is examine His attributes to see how he/she is to act.
If we only look at the world around us with only the eyes of the commandments, we can become judgmental.
Whether one is approaching the world or oneself, by focusing on the Creator’s Attributes as a guiding light along with the commandments, the world becomes a lot less harsh.
We may find that we may not agree with a particular lifestyle, beliefs or action of our fellow human beings, but by allowing the Creator’s image found in His Attributes guide us as well as His commandments, we will see our fellow humans in a different light.
In the book The Universal Garden of Emuna by Rabbi Shalom Arush, he makes a statement that the Creator made us so that He could show His mercy and Kindness toward us (paraphrased). Then, how much more should those of us who are working on keeping His commandments show the world around us the Attributes of the Creator through our actions?
Praiseworthy are the righteous who turn the Attribute of Justice into the Attribute of Mercy
Terry W. Hayes
Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash