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Tishrei 3

As a father is merciful toward his children, so may You be merciful to us (Selichos).

As children of God, we have the right to plead for mercy, just as we would expect a human father to be kind and compassionate with his errant child. Actions that might elicit stern judgment from strangers do not provoke a similar reaction from one's father. In praying for Divine forgiveness for our misdeeds, we are therefore not asking for the extraordinary, but simply for the natural response of a father toward a child. Even if our actions deserve rebuke, we ask that the discipline should be tempered by paternal compassion.

But if we ask to be treated as children, we must relate to God the way the Torah expects a child to relate to a parent, with respect and reverence. We cannot expect a parent-child relationship to be one-directional.

The Talmud speaks harshly of someone who profanes that which is sacred, going so far as to deny him a share in the eternal world, even though he may have performed many mitzvos (Ethics of the Fathers 3:15). This is because although no one is perfect, and while sins can be forgiven, if one is irreverent toward holiness and lacks the respect for God that should characterize a child-parent relationship, then such a person may forfeit forgiveness. For example, halachic authorities sharply criticize one who converses during the prayer services, for while this is not a Biblical transgression, it indicates disrespect for the Divine Presence.

During these days of penitence, as we recite the prayer, Avinu Malkeinu (our Father, our King), we should give thought to the concept of reverence for our Father.

Today I shall...

try to behave in a manner that befits a child of God.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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