Way back in March I discussed the Netziv's pshat in "rav chessed v'emes", that “rav” modifies both terms –- Hashem is both “rav chessed” and “rav emes.” Meaning, when a person appears before a judge, the judge may say that while it’s true/emes that the law says that for crime X the punishment is Y, he will be merciful and give a lesser punishment. Or the judge may refuse to hear any grounds for leniency -– no chessed –- and instead, dispense exactly the punishment on the books. It's either or: either you get the letter of the law, or the law goes out the window and you get mercy in its place. Hashem somehow –- and this is beyond our human capacity to understand –- shows both an abundance of mercy, he is “rav chessed,” and at the same time, does not deviate one iota from being “rav emes,” from dispensing exactly what the letter of the law requires (see post here.)
The problem is that we are talking about the 13 midos ha'rachamim here -- not stam 13 ways G-d runs the world. If emes is a stira to rachamim, then what is it doing here?
Revisiting another post from a long time ago: The Midrash writes that for 26 generations before mattan Torah Hashem sustained the world through pure chessed. We have 26 "ki l'olam chasdo"s. But after mattan Torah, we are responsible to earn our keep by doing Torah u'miztvos.
So does that mean that mattan Torah diminished Hashem's chessed?
Rav Hutner answers as follows: Ramchal and others explain that chessed that is an undeserved handout is not the pureset form of chessed because who really feels good about taking a handout? The highest form of chessed is giving someone an opportunity to earn what you want to bestow upon them. Mattan Torah was therefore a greater chessed than existed ever before because Torah and mitzvos give us the opportunity to earn what Hashem wants to grant us.
This is what we mean, says the Tiferes Shlomo, by the word "emes" in the 13 midos. The chessed of Hashem is a chessed of "emes," it is something he gives us the opportunity to earn and deserve, and is not tainted by being nahama d'kisufa.
Hashem wants to give each one of us a kesiva v'chasima tovah. He wants to give us rachamei shamayim and he gives us so many opportunities, especially during aseres ymei teshuvah, to get there. Chazal gave us a simple formula: "kol ha'merachem... m'rachamim alav min ha'shamayim."
But what if a person just doesn't feel inspired and just doesn't have it in him?
I've quoted this Ishbitzer many times before, so this too is an encore performance. "Terem nikra'au v'ani e'eneh, od heim midbarim v'ani eshma." If G-d responded already, "terem nikra'u," then what is the "od heim midabrim" all about?
The Ishbitzer explains that the pasuk is speaking about a situation where Hashem wants to intervene and help us, but the is'arusa d'li'tata on our part is missing. So Hashem intervenes and wakes us up. "Terem nikra'u," he responds not by giving us what we need, but by arousing us and inspiring us to ask for it. Then, "od heim midabrim," once the dialogue is established, once the conversation is initiated, then "ani eshma," says Hashem.
The Yalkut comments on the pasuk in Iyov (41:3) "Mi hikdimani va'ashalem":
מי הקדימני ואשלם מי קלס לפני עד שלא נתתי לו נשמה, מי מל לבנו עד שלא נתתי לו בן, מי עשה ציצית עד שלא נתתי, מי הפריש תרומה ומעשר עד שלא נתתי לו גורן, מי הפריש בכורות ומעשרות וקרבנות עד שלא נתתי לו צאן
Hashem asks: Did you do milah before I have you a child? Did you make tzitzis before I gave you clothes? Did you take terumah before I made your crop grow?
You of course can't do milah before having a son, or fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis before you have clothes. What Chazal are telling us is that while we are the ones who collect the reward for doing mitzvos, it is Hashem who creates the opportunities for us and inspires us to do them. A person may not had a thought in his head of doing milah, but them Hashem gives him a son and he finds himself doing the mitzvah. And the same with every other opportunity that just "happens" to present itself. Hashem is not just the one who pats us on the head after the fact if we've done what we are supposed to, but he is also the one orchestrating getting us to the point.
The Tiferes Shlomo explains that this is the "rav chessed" of the 13 midos:
לכך הנה אם האדם מרחם על חבירו ומרחמין עליו מן השמים זה הוא בחי' אמת כי כן הוא היושר אבל אם אינו מרחם על חבירו והוא צריך לאותו דבר מה עושה הקב"ה בחסדו הגדול כדי שיהא אתערותא דלתתא הנה שולח בלב האיש הזה לעשות צדקה ורחמנות על חבירו ואח"כ באתערותא דלתתא מעורר רחמים למעלה. וזה הוא בחי' ורב חסד שבחסדיו הרבים מעורר את האדם להמשיך עליו חסד ואמת כי אח"כ מגיע לו עפ"י האמת והיושר כנ"ל
Hashem doesn't wait for us to get the inspiration to go out and earn the chessed He wants to give so that it is emes -- He steers us in the right direction to get there. "Rav chessed" is the chessed of "terem nikra" to get us to the point of "od heim midabrim," where we do the right thing.
Kol ha'meracheim... m'rachamim alav min ha'shamayim. Hashem arranged for your mailbox to be inundated with letters asking for tzedaka this week, for your phone to be inundated with robocalls asking you to support this cause or that cause, for there to be a kol nidrei appeal and for you to pass by the child shaking his pushke outside the supermarket. All that and more is the rav chessed. If we respond as we should, then it will be a year of emes-dik chessed, of rachamei shamayim that is earned and deserved and therefore of the highest level.