While we are all called upon to engage in introspection and to correct our ways during this time of the year, there is someone else who engages in introspection as well, God.
In one of the most remarkable passages in all of the Talmud, the Rabbis (in Berachot 7a) tell us that God prays. But for what does God pray and to Whom?
“May it be My will that My mercy will overcome My anger, and may My mercy prevail over My attributes, and may I conduct myself toward My children, Israel, with the attribute of mercy, and may I enter before them beyond the letter of the law.”
God, as it were, prays to Himself, and asks that His attribute of mercy prevail over His anger and His attribute of judgment so that the people of Israel will be spared punishment for their sins.
The Talmud then continue and records an astonishing conversation (made famous by the singer Avraham Fried) between Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha, the High Priest, and God:
Rabbi Yishmael said: Once (on Yom Kippur), I entered the Holy of Holies to offer incense, and I saw God (referred to here as “Akatriel Ya, the Lord of Hosts”) seated upon a high and exalted throne. He (God) then said to me: “Yishmael, My son, bless Me”, whereupon I said to him: “May it be My will that My mercy will overcome My anger, and may My mercy prevail over My attributes, and may I conduct myself toward My children, Israel, with the attribute of mercy, and may I enter before them beyond the letter of the law.” God then nodded His head (and received the blessing).
What this text seems to be suggesting is that God Himself is engaged in introspection and an internal struggle regarding the appropriate way to conduct Himself in His relationship with the Jewish people at this time of year. Furthermore, the struggle is so fierce that He requires the assistance and the blessing of the High Priest to help Him overcome His attribute of judgment in favor of His attribute of mercy.
In other words, God, like many of us at this time of the year, seeks to bring out the very best version of Himself. And just as we need God’s help in our efforts, He apparently needs our help in His.
G’mar Chatima Tova.