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The words of our prayers are precise. There is not one bit of redundancy or random usage of words. The Great Assembly revealed to us with their Torah knowledge and prophecy, the code we use to dial G-d, the prayers as we have them in our Siddur. We refer to G-d as YKVK, Elokim, Kel, Avinu, Malkenu, etc. Each title or Name has a specific purpose, a rhyme, and reason, when and where they are meticulously placed in our prayers. For example, we refer to G-d specifically as Kel, Almighty, specifically regarding cure, (כי א-ל רופא רחמן) forgiveness (כי א-ל טוב וסלח אתה), and financial blessing ( כי א-ל טוב ומטיב אתה ומברך השנים/ הא-ל הזן אותנו). If He can create something from nothing, for sure, He can create a cure, a way to forgive and accept, and a financial solution.
Of course, G-d is One, and even if He has 13 Middot of Mercy, they are merely attributes, but of One G-d. Even 13 is the numerical value of the word אחד, One. The Attributes are just different ways He behaves and reveals Himself to us, different ways He relates.
There is a description we make mention of when dialing G-d for forgiveness and mercy in difficult times. Avinu, our Father. השיבנו אבינו לתורתך/ סלח לנו אבינו כי חטאנו/ עננו אבינו ביום צום התענית. Return us our Father to your Torah/ Forgive us our Father for we have erred/ Answer us our Father on our fast day. We also find this description of Father regarding our request to ask for Torah clarity, in the blessing before Kriyat Shema אבינו אב הרחמן המרחם רחם עלינו ותן בליבנו בינה להבין ….. When R’ Akiva teaches us how lucky we are because of Who forgives us, he teaches אשריכם ישראל לפני מי אתם מטהרים ומי מטהר אתכם אביכם שבשמים. Fortunate are you, Yisrael, in front of Who are you becoming pure, and Who is purifying you? Your Father in Heaven. R’ Akiva prayed for rain and was answered, even though his Rebbi, R’ Eliezer B. Hurkenus, who was just as great or maybe greater, was not answered. Even though R’ Eliezer prayed 24 prayers, and R’ Akiva prayed only two! What did R’ Akiva pray? אבינו מלכנו אין לנו מלך אלא אתה, אבינו מלכנו למענך רחם עלינו’ Our Father our King, we do not have another King except for you! Our Father, our King, for Your sake have mercy on us.
What is the difference between Avinu and Malkenu, our Father and our King? Why is the title Avinu, our Father, used when we ask for forgiveness and in times of stress? And why do we specifically use the referral of Father regarding His teaching us Torah?
The difference between father and king is that when you disobey and get hurt because you broke the rule, the father cares less about the fact that you violated his word and cares more about the fact that you got hurt. King, on the other hand, cares more about the fact that you disobeyed his command. Hashem gave us His Torah, because He cares for us, like a Father. רצה ה’ לזכות את ישראל לפיכך הרבה להם תורה ומצוות He wants us to have the best Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba possible. When you disobey, He cares that you got hurt, that you are in pain, resulting from the sin, and He wants more than anything to help you out. G-d is also referred to as King, on the other hand, in that He does not need to answer up to anyone, and if He wills to do you good, nothing can hold him back, whereas a father may want to help his son, but not always able to. אבינו מלכנו, is a hybrid prayer, accessing the power of Father, and King.
The Rosh writes the reason why G-d wills that we eat a meal on Erev Yom Kippur, “to show His love, like a person who has a favorite child and decrees that the child fasts a day, he commands to feed and give drink to the child on the day before the fast, so that the child can manage the fast. G-d, too, commands us to fast for our sake, to forgive our sins, and warns us to eat and drink Erev Yom Kippur because He loves us and is worried for us.”
A Heavenly voice came out when R’ Akiva’s prayers were answered, and R Eliezer’s was not. “It is not because this one is greater than that one… Rather, it is because R’ Akiva was forgiving and patient, while R’ Eliezer was not forgiving and patient.” (Taanit 25b) For the 13 attributes to work for you to bring you G-d’s mercy, it is not enough to say them; you must also behave them. תעשו לפני כסדר הזה This gives G-d the power to act with mercy and patience towards you when you have mercy and patience.תנו עוז לאלוקים The power of R’ Akiva’s prayer was the power of his patience, so that is why he referred to G-d as אבינו, Our Father, as there is nothing more that will make you patient than being a father. We prefer during High Holidays a Hazzan who is a father. A father is not only mastering patience but also learning responsibility for others.
The merit of patience and responsibility is so great. It is just as great as the ultimate self-sacrifice, Akeidat Yitzhak. The Midrash tells us that when G-d exiled our people at the destruction of the First Temple, He asked our Patriarchs and leaders in Heaven to pray for the Jewish Nation’s merit that He will bring them back to the Holy Land. Avraham mentioned sacrificing his only son, his only future, for G-d. Yitzhak mentioned his ultimate self-sacrifice. Yaakov mentioned his patience in bringing up the tribes and being responsible for them. Moshe mentioned his responsibility and patience in being a leader. (Eicha Rabti Peticha 24) It seems that patience and responsibility, are equal to self-sacrifice, and when we want to ask G-d to annul a decree, there is nothing more powerful!
Another unique dimension of Father is that a Father knows his son more than the son knows himself. A person is primarily affected by his Nature (49%) and how he was Nurtured (51%). Nature: DNA, family strengths and weaknesses, personal strengths and weaknesses, behaviors, and personality that you were born with. Nurture: How you were nurtured from your birthday, until now. Who were the people in your life, their beliefs, what system (family, school, community, social circle, culture) you were born into, and where you were positioned in that system. Nature and Nurture are what you were made up of, your hard drive, which is not good or bad. This is how G-d set you up, and no one, not even you, can be aware and keep track of your Nature and Nurture like G-d, our Father, can. If you sinned, if you have a hard time repenting or fighting your inclinations, He is your Father and knows what you are going through, what you are dealing with, and how much free choice you have. G-d accepts you, even when you do not accept yourself, and loves you even when you do not love yourself… because He is your Father.
Selfie Steps to Teshuva:
- All change needs to go through three steps I call Triple A. Awareness. Acceptance. Action. You need to master these three to make a long-lasting impact. Awareness of what you have done and the result of your actions. Awareness of the two things you are made up of, your Nature, how you were Nurtured, and what options and choices you have available to you.
- You need to accept who you are, accept the situation you are in, accept the people in your life for who they are, accept G-d’s decision of how He runs His world, and only then can you take action to change. Those who change know that you can only change yourself, you can only change how you feel and behave, and you can only change the present. The only way to do this is by realizing that G-d accepts us for who we are. He just does not accept our behaviors, thoughts, or feelings when they are not in line with His Torah.
- Make a list of all the things that would be great if you were able to change. Now find the one thing from that list that if you changed that one thing, it will have the most significant impact on the rest of your list of things to change. (I found that the most significant thing that would impact my change is to make a detailed schedule on my calendar of the next day in advance and then stick to my calendar. This 15 minutes a day of scheduling has had the most significant impact on the rest of my goals.)