Our Father, our King. You are judging us today. This is, after all, the Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment, and You, after all, are the King. But You are also our Father. Please judge us as a father would – with compassion and mercy.
But what do we know of G-d’s mercy? His wisdom is beyond us, and what we pray and what we think of as our basic necessities may not be what He thinks we need. How do I elicit G-d’s mercy? And, perhaps more importantly, mercy in judging me favourably and giving me the things that are truly important to me?
Shortly before Rosh HaShanah, we read in the Torah about the mitzvah of shiluach hakan, sending away the mother bird before taking away the fledglings or eggs. Seems to be appropriate reading for the time we are in. What could be more heart-wrenching for a mother bird than having to see its babies being taken away from her? That is why the Torah tells us to shoo away the mother before removing its eggs (or fledglings).
Yet the Mishnah tells us that if one hears someone saying, “On the bird’s nest Your compassion has reached (so it should reach us),” we should silence him. He is making it sound as if the commandments of G-d are all about compassion. If they were just about compassion, we would be expected to be vegetarian!
So, we are back to square one. Certainly G-d has compassion, He is Av HaRachaman, a compassionate Father, but He is unknowable, and His compassion is beyond us, and His calculations are not just about compassion.
Maimonides to the rescue! Sending away the mother bird is because G-d is compassionate. The Mishnah mentioned above, according to Maimonidies, is only one of two opinions debating a fundamental issue regarding all of the 613 commandments. Do we/should we/can we understand the mitzvot? The law, says Maimonidies, does not follow the afore-mentioned Mishnah. We must try to understand.
A compromise position is that of the Nachmonidies (Ramban): G-d and all His attributes are unfathomable. But He wants us to be compassionate, he wants us to me merciful in all that we do. Sending away the mother bird instills in us a sensitivity to others (even animals) and empathy for our fellow.
G-d, we do not understand Your midot, but please show us Your infinite mercy in the same way we show each other mercy. Have compassion on us as we have compassion for other people and for animals. Show us mercy in a way that we feel your love. Heal our loved ones, grant us success and nachat from our children.
Avinu Malkeinu, G-d, You are the Mother bird. Don’t let us be separated from you. Have Rachmanut on your own Shechinah in exile. Return us to our nest where we can feel Your eternal love and protection!