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Emulating Hashem – A Practical Guide

Torah Thoughts on Parshas Ki Sisa by Rabbi Allon Bruckenstein

"וַיַעֲבֹר ה' עַל פָּנָיו וַיִקְרָא ה' ה' קֵל רַחוּם וְחַנוּן אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת נֹצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים נֹשֵׂא עָוֹן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָאָה וְנַקֵה לֹא יְנַקֶה פֹּקֵד עֲוֹן אָבוֹת עַל בָּנִים וְעַל בְּנֵי בָנִים עַל שִׁלֵשִׁים וְעַל רִבֵּעִים" שְׁמוֹת ל''ד:ו'-ז'

“And God passed before him and proclaimed: ‘God, God; God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth; preserver of kindness for two thousand [generations], forgiver of iniquity and willful sin, and error, and Who absolves – but does not absolve completely. He remembers the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the granchildren, upon the third and upon the fourth [generations].” Shemos 34:6-7 

The Gemara in Rosh HaShanah (17b) says that HaKadosh Baruch Hu, as it were, wrapped Himself in a talis and taught Moshe Rabbeinu the 13 attributes of mercy, guaranteeing him that "if B'nei Yisrael sins and they follow this order… I will forgive them." The Gemara concludes that there is a pact made with the 13 middos that they will never go unanswered. The sefer Reishis Chochma presents a difficulty with this Gemara, because we see many times that we prayed in this manner and we were apparently not answered. Rather, he explains the Gemara to mean that if we act in this manner, emulating Hashem's ways, we will be answered. Just as He is merciful so should we be merciful etc…

This concept of emulating Hashem's ways is the subject of the classic work by Rabbi Moshe Cordovaro (Ramak), Tomer Devorah. In this mussar sefer, the Ramak shows us how we can emulate Hashem's ways in our day-to-day interactions with our fellow men. It occurred to me that not only is this sefer beneficial in our character development but it can actually serve as a guide for parents as well. In fact, Hashem is our Father. Wouldn't it make sense to see how He interacts with His children, and follow His lead? Upon further contemplation, I thought that perhaps Hashem gives us children specifically in order to provide us with constant opportunities to emulate Him.

A story is told of a father who was patiently taking care of his children while hosting his uncle, who came from abroad. The uncle was amazed at his nephew's patience and asked him what will be his reward for his dedication. The nephew suggested that perhaps his reward is having children who will carry on his name. A few days later, he presented his idea to the Brisker Rav. The Rav's response was that his suggestion borders on heresy. He said that parents are not to look for reward for their devotion to their children. Rather, they are to emulate HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Who gives to us, His children, without expecting anything in return.

It is our responsibility to apply the lessons found in the Tomer Devorah, as well as any lesson relating to interpersonal interactions, to our children as well. We try to be careful about controlling our anger, having patience, and greeting others with a smile when dealing with our friends or neighbors. Shouldn't we apply those same lessons when interacting with those who need it the most, our children?


Rabbi Allon Bruckenstein (FYHS 1985) went to Kerem B'Yavne for 2 years. He returned to HTC’s Beis Midrash, received Semichah (1992), and earned a bachelors & masters in Educational Psychology at Loyola. He married in 1990 & joined HTC's Bellows Kollel. He then joined the Milwaukee Kollel for 2 years and taught in the Yeshiva Elementary School. In 1999 he moved to Israel & served as an educational advisor, teacher, & remedial instructor. For 10 years he's been an Educational Psychologist for the Regional Council of Mateh Binyamin, & volunteers for Ichud Hatzala's Psychotrauma Unit.

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