God, do You ever grow weary, snap at Your children, say
things you regret once they leave Your mouth and we shrink away?
Slice the words off before they're spoken. Revise Yourself
into lovingkindness. Be the One we call on when we pray.
In today's NaPoWriMo prompt we're invited to write a ruba'i, a four-line stanza with an AABA rhyme scheme. (A series of these is called a rubaiyat.) Mine arose out of the Torah reading for this Shabbat. This week's passage contains the Thirteen Attributes, which we recite in our liturgy on Yom Kippur. But our liturgical use revises the Torah text in an interesting way.
In Torah God is described as "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and trangression and sin -- yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of parents upon children and children's children, upon the third and fourth generations." Our sages chose to leave out the part after the dash, so that when we call upon God in prayer, we're calling upon the positive attributes, not the negative one.
I've often been asked about the "visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children" verse. I read it as descriptive rather than prescriptive. It's a psychological truth: parents who don't do their own spiritual work will almost inevitably replicate their patterns and their traumas in parenting their children, who will replicate them in turn when they become parents. Parents who do the inner work they need to do -- which our tradition calls teshuvah, re/turning-toward-God -- are more able to break those cycles.
Sometimes the God of Torah speaks from a place of anger. As a parent, I choose to read those passages as God learning to parent on the job, as it were. Sometimes frustration overcomes the intention to speak kindness. But in my understanding of God, the lovingkindness and compassion are always there, even when God speaks harshly. And we, made in the divine image, have the divine capacity to revise ourselves each day into the people we mean to be. That's what these seven weeks of the Omer are for.