After the Golden Calf debacle, Moses sought to open a path for the Jewish people to attain G‑d’s forgiveness. To this end, G‑d revealed to Moses the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy, opening a pathway for all future generations to achieve atonement and healing:
And the L‑rd passed before him and proclaimed: “L‑rd, L‑rd, benevolent G‑d, Who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, preserving lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, rebellion and sin, and He cleanses . . .” (Exodus 34:6–7)
This raises an interesting question: why is “an abundance of truth” considered one of the attributes of mercy? Compassion, graciousness and kindness seem par for the course; but truth? Truth is a severe and honest judge, unwilling to overlook misdeeds and transgressions.
Our shortcomings and failures are true only superficiallyThe reality, however, is that our shortcomings and failures are true only superficially—for a moment in time, and only affecting an outer layer of self. The Hebrew word for sin, chet, actually means “to miss the mark, to be deficient.” Essentially we are not wrongdoers; we are simply falling short of our potential. The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy and the intertwined concept of teshuvah, properly translated as a “return” to one’s real self, are the road that reconnect us to our potential, our truest self. This potential remains whole and unaffected by whatever temporary detour we have taken.
When we invoke these attributes, we connect to our relationship to the Source of all being, a relationship that is rooted deeper within us than any failure can reach. The greatest typhoon only roils the waters of the sea close to the surface, but the oceanic depths remain calm and untroubled. We have a place within our soul that is deeply connected to the Infinite, a place that the effects of our negative choices cannot reach. When we awaken this level of being, we find new reservoirs of strength to transform our lives.
We are fundamentally, essentially and truly G‑dly and positive. We can access that reality at any time we choose. And G‑d’s attribute of truth cuts away all the external layers and sees us for whom we truly are.