By Rabbi Dovid Markel
In Tomer Devorah, R. Moshe Cordovero explains that man must emulate G-d’s ways. He elaborates by breaking down the 13 attributes of mercy and explains that each of them expresses the way that G-d acts towards man. By understanding the way G-d conducts Himself towards man, it is possible to learn the way that man is to act towards his fellow.
The 13 attributes of mercy are expressed in the following statement by the prophet Micha:
“Who is a G-d like You, Who forgives iniquity and passes over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not maintain His anger forever, for He desires loving-kindness. He shall return and grant us compassion; He shall hide our iniquities, and You shall cast into the depths of the sea all their sins. You shall give the truth of Yaakov, the loving-kindness of Avraham, which You swore to our forefathers from days of yore.”
The first trait of G-d that we are to emulate is “Who is a G-d like you.” G-d tolerates offense in an awesome manner.
R. Moshe Cardovero explains that on one hand, G-d is surely aware of all of man’s actions and on the other hand, there is not a single moment during a person’s life when he is not being sustained by the Almighty.
Notwithstanding that with the very energy that G-d gives to man, man uses it to sin against Him, He continues to sustain man and provide man with the very life-force that man uses to sin against Him.
It is certainly possible for G-d to hold back this life force as he did with Yeravam, as expressed in the following verse:
“And it was, when the king heard the words of the man of G-d, which he proclaimed concerning the altar in Beis El, that Yeravam stretched out his hand from over the altar saying: ‘Seize him!’ And his hand that he had stretched out against him became stiff, and he could not draw his hand back to himself.”
Nevertheless, G-d does not do so, but instead continues to give life at the very moment that an individual chooses to rebel against Him.
This is what is expressed in the statement, “Who is a G-d like You?!” It articulates how G-d is extremely patient, and tolerates and gives life to those that rebel against His will.
The lesson that man is to learn is the same. Although there are times that people may anger him and go against his wishes, he should nevertheless be patient and tolerate them. No matter their iniquity, he is for sure no greater than G-d, who is able to tolerate and sustain a wanton sinner.