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The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy or Shelosh-'Esreh Middot HaRakhamim (transliterated from the Hebrew: שָׁלוֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מִידוֹת הרַחֲמִים ) as enumerated in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 34:6–7) are the Divine Attributes with which, according to Judaism, God governs the world.
According to the explanation of Maimonides these attributes must not be regarded as qualities inherent in God, but as the method of His activity, by which the divine governance appears to the human observer to be controlled. In the Sifre, however, these attributes are not called "middot", which may mean "quality" as well as "rule" and "measure", but "derakim" (ways), since they are the ways of God which Moses prayed to know and which God proclaimed to him.
The number thirteen is adopted from Talmudic and rabbinic tradition. There are divergent opinions as to which word they begin and with which they conclude. According to some, the Thirteen Attributes begin with the first "Adonai", in verse 6, and end with the word "ve-nakeh" in verse 7. The single attributes are contained in the verses as follows:
According to others, the Thirteen Attributes begin only with the second "Adonai", since the first one is the subject of "va-yikra" (and He proclaimed). To secure the number thirteen, some count "noẓer ḥesed la-alafim" as two (Nissim in Tos. l.c.), while others divide "erek appayim" into two, since forbearance is shown both to the good and to the wicked (comp. the gloss on Tosafot, l.c. and Ibn Ezra, l.c.), and still others end the thirteenth middah with "lo yenaḳeh" (he does not pardon; Maimonides, "Pe'er ha-Dor", p. 19b), Lemberg, 1859), this being considered a good quality, since through punishment man is moved to repentance, after which he is pardoned and pure (comp. Yoma 86a; Aaron b. Elijah, l.c.; and "'Ez ha-Ḥayyim", ch. xcii.). Others term "ve-naḳeh lo yenaḳeh" a single middah, the thirteenth being, in their opinion, "poḳed 'awon abot 'al-banim" (visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children), "this being regarded as compassionate since the transgressor is not punished immediately" (Maimonides, l.c.; Aaron b. Ḥayyim, l.c.; comp. also "Da'at Zeḳenim").
The general usage is that the various recitations of the thirteen middot begin with the first "Adonai" and conclude with "ve-nakeh".
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