Truth in Mercy – Rabbi Aaron Shapiro (Ki Sisa)

In the parsha, G-d reveals His 13 Attributes of Mercy. Somewhat surprisingly, one of those attributes is Truth. Though admirable, what is its connection to mercy?  The Rambam reveals another dimension to the concept of Truth.  He explains that at the end of Shema, when we say “Hashem your G-D is True,” we don’t simply mean He exists, but that He is the only true existence, as His existence is the only one that is inherent and absolute and not dependent on anything else. As opposed to people, whose existence must come and go, His existence alone is constant.

Perhaps this is the meaning behind Truth in the 13 attributes. It is reflecting an aspect of all the other traits. Hashem’s mercy is not a whim.  It does not come and go. Hashem’s mercy is inherent and integral to who he is, and the practical result of that is constancy. In Modim we say “Hashem is the Good One for his mercy is never exhausted, the Merciful because his kindness never ends.” His mercy is inherent to who He is, not a result of a sudden fleeting impulse. 

This trait provides an additional benefit to us as well. His truth is not just an aspect of the other attribute, but an attribute in and of itself, because His constancy means that we can always rely on Hashem and His mercy. As the prayer continues, “We always place our hope in You.”

 One of the Mitzvot is emulating G-d’s ways. Just as He embodies Truth, our mercy should be true. Like G-d, our kindness should be inherent to who we are and therefore unwavering; it should not be subject to whims and emotions, but rather an integral part of our character. We too should be someone others can rely on because we never waver from our principled traits of kindness.