The Kabbalah of Forgiveness Level One: The King Who Endures Insult

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The First Level: The King who Endures Insult

“The Insulted King,” illustration of Level 1 by Rebecca Odessa, Courtesy The Wisdom Daily

 

Translator’s Introduction

Rabbi Cordovero’s discussion of the Thirteen Levels of Mercy begins with an awesome depiction of human sin from God’s perspective.

Given that all power in the Universe has God at its source, even the energy used by human beings in their affairs, it follows that when a person transgresses God’s will, he or she inevitably makes use of that very same Divine vitality to rebel against the One who provided it.  By analogy, this is like a servant who receives a walking stick from his employer with instructions to undertake a journey, and the servant immediately uses the walking stick to beat his master. What a grievous insult! Nevertheless, God endures this insult, and continues to provide life-sustaining energy to human beings, even when they misdirect that energy to defy God’s will.

The first of the Thirteen Levels of Mercy is taken from the beginning of Micah 7:18: Who is like You, God. Rabbi Cordovero outlines the parameters of the first Level, and then indicates some ways in which human beings may emulate the Divine forgiveness that continues to provide life-sustaining energy even when we transgress.

הָאחת – מִי אֵל כָּמוֹךָ

מוֹרֶה עַל הֱיוֹת הב”ה מֶלֶךְ נֶעֱלַב, סוֹבֵל עֶלְבּוֹן מַה שֶׁלֹּא יְכִילֵהוּ רַעְיוֹן. הֲרֵי אֵין דָּבָר נִסְתָּר מֵהַשְׁגָּחָתוֹ בְּלִי סָפֵק, וְעוֹד אֵין רֶגַע שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה הָאָדָם נִזּוֹן וּמִתְקַיֵּם מִכֹּחַ עֶלְיוֹן הַשּׁוֹפֵעַ עָלָיו, וַהֲרֵי תִּמְצָא שֶׁמֵּעוֹלָם לֹא חָטָא אָדָם נֶגְדּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה הוּא בְּאוֹתוֹ הָרֶגַע מַמָּשׁ שׁוֹפֵעַ עליו שֶׁפַע קִיּוּמוֹ וּתְנוּעַת אֵבָרָיו, ועִם הֱיוֹת שֶׁהָאָדָם חֹטֵא בַכֹּחַ הַהוּא לֹא מְנָעוֹ מִמֶּנּוּ כְּלָל אֶלָּא סבל הב”ה  עֶלְבּוֹן כָּזֶה לִהְיוֹת מַשְׁפִּיעַ בּוֹ כֹּחַ תְּנוּעת אֵבָרָיו, וְהוּא מוֹצִיאן אוֹתוֹ כֹּחַ בְּאוֹתוֹ רֶגַע בְּחֵטְא וְעָוֹן וּמַכְעִיס וְהב”ה  סוֹבֵל. וְלֹא תֹאמַר שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִמְנוֹעַ מִמֶּנּוּ הַטּוֹב הַהוּא ח”ו שֶׁהֲרֵי בְכֹחוֹ בְּרֶגַע כְּמֵימְרָה לְיַבֵּשׁ יָדָיו וְרַגְלָיו כְּעֵין שֶׁעָשָׂה לְיָרָבְעָם, וְעִם כָּל זֹאת שֶׁהַכֹּחַ בְּיָדוֹ לְהַחְזִיר הַכֹּחַ הַנִּשְׁפָּע הַהוּא וְהָיָה לוֹ לוֹמַר כֵּיוָן שֶׁאַתָּה חֹטֵא נֶגְדִּי תֶּחֱטָא בְּשֶׁלְּךָ לֹא בְשֶׁלִּי,  לא תחטא נגדי, לֹא מִפְּנֵי זֶה מָנַע טוּבוֹ מִן הָאָדָם אֶלָּא סָבַל עֶלְבּוֹן, וְהִשְׁפִּיעַ הַכֹּחַ וְהֵטִיב לְאָדָם טוּבוֹ. הֲרֵי זֶה עֶלְבּוֹן וְסַבְלָנוּת מַה שֶׁלֹּא ישוער וְעַל זֶה קוֹרְאִים מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת לְהב”ה  מֶלֶךְ עָלוּב וְהַיְנוּ אוֹמְרוֹ מִי אֵל כָּמוֹךָ, אַתָּה אֵל בַּעַל חֶסֶד הַמֵּטִיב, אֵל בַּעַל כֹּחַ לִנְקֹם וְלֶאֱסֹף אֶת שֶׁלְּךָ, וְעִם כָּל זֹאת אַתָּה סוֹבֵל וְנֶעֱלָב עַד יָשׁוּב בִּתְשׁוּבָה.

הֲרֵי זוֹ מִדָּה שֶׁצָּרִיךְ הָאָדָם לְהִתְנַהֵג בָּהּ רְצוֹנִי הַסַּבְלָנוּת וְכֵן הֱיוֹתוֹ נֶעֱלַב אֲפִלּוּ לְמַדְרֵגָה זוֹ וְעִם כָּל זֹאת לֹא יֶאֱסֹף טוֹבָתוֹ מִן הַמְּקַבֵּל:

Translation

The First Level

Who is God Like You

            This Level demonstrates that God is a King who endures insult to a degree that cannot be imagined. Behold, without doubt nothing is hidden from God’s awareness, and there is no moment when a human being is not nourished and sustained by the supernal power that descends from above. Therefore a person never sins against God without simultaneously receiving a sustaining flow of energy from God at the very moment of sin, animating the limbs. Despite the fact that the person uses this energy to sin, God does not withhold it in the least. Rather, God endures this insult and continues to provide the animating life force, even though the person abuses this power to sin, to rebel, and to attempt to anger God.  Still, God endures the insult.

            One cannot say that God does not have the power to withhold this energy from a person, Heaven forbid.  God has the power to shrivel a person’s hands and feet with a single word, as God did with Jeroboam (Kings I 13:4). Despite the fact that God has the power to reverse the flow of energy, saying, “Since you sin against Me—sin with your own power and not Mine,” God nevertheless does not withhold this benefit; rather, God endures the insult and continues to send the flow of power, providing the person with God’s goodness. Behold, this is a level of insult and tolerance that cannot be described.

            This is why the ministering angels refer to God as the Insulted King. This is the meaning of “Who is God like You.” You are a God of kindness and generosity, a God with the power to take vengeance and take back what is Yours, yet You show tolerance to insult until the person repents.

            Behold, this is a Level that one must emulate, meaning: tolerance. We must tolerate insult even to this degree and not retract the benefits we give to others.

The Kabbalah of Forgiveness is now available.

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2 thoughts on “The Kabbalah of Forgiveness Level One: The King Who Endures Insult

  1. Wow, I never knew that Medrash before-the one that discusses Bnei Yisroel bringing false gods with them through the Yam Suf. To think Hashem forgives like that is amazing! This video broke it down so well for me. I like the small example of standing on the checkout line; it shows that we should be implementing this attribute even for the smallest of annoyances. Honestly, examples like these come up every day, all the time. It’s important to be the kind of person that can overlook these moments and forgive people for their lack of sensitives or gratitude. Everyone has shortcomings; we would want others to overlook ours as well.

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