Tuesday, October 09, 2007

God's Prayer for Parents

The Gemara (Berakhos 7a) states that God recites the following prayer: "May it be My will that My mercy will suppress My anger, and that My mercy will prevail over My other attributes, and that I deal with My children in the attribute of mercy and, for them, go beyond the limit of strict justice."

The commentators deal with what it means theologically for God to pray. R. Hai Gaon (quoted by the Rashba in his Chiddushei Haggados, ad loc.) explains that the intent is for God to teach us that we should pray for Him to suppress His anger. However, the Rashba rejects this because it does not seem to be correct from the language of the Gemara. He, instead, explains the prayer to mean that God is asking that we act properly so that He is able to be merciful to us. God has given us free will and is praying that we use it properly (cf. Tzelach, ad loc.).

I'd like to suggest an alternate explanation. Perhaps the Gemara is telling us what God prays for about Himself in order to teach us what we should be praying for about ourselves. God is portrayed as praying that He be able to overcome His anger. Later on that page, the Gemara states that God is briefly angry every day. The implication seems to be that it is natural for people to become angry but we need to minimize that anger and overcome it with our other attributes.

The Mishnah in Avos (2:10) says "Do not be quick to anger" and then later (5:11) "Slow to anger and quick to be appeased, is a chasid". Some commentators (e.g. Rabbenu Yonah) note that the Mishnah does not say not to get angry at all but to only get angry on rare occasions and then to calm down quickly. That, I believe, is similar to the description of God's attributes in the above Gemara. But this is not easy and requires us to try every method, even prayer, in order to avoid anger as best we can.

While this is true for all of our relationships with others, after the umpteenth day of being confined for Yom Tov with our bickering children, the following is something we should all be saying to ourselves: "...That I deal with my children in the attribute of mercy and, for them, go beyond the limit of strict justice."

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