This quality a man should make his own. Although he should conduct himself with righteousness, justice and uprightness to all men, he should go beyond the letter of the law when dealing with the good and saintly. If he is only a little patient with other men he should be exceedingly patient with these and show compassion to them, going beyond the letter of the law he follows with regard to other men. These should be especially important to him and exceedingly beloved and they should be his friends.
XII As Thou has sworn unto our fathers
There are people who are unworthy and yet the Holy One, Blessed is He, has mercy upon them. The Gemara explains the verse: 'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious' as that the Holy One, Blessed is He, says: 'This storehouse is for those who are unworthy.' There is a storehouse of grace from which the Holy One, Blessed is He, gives them an unearned gift. For the Holy One, Blessed is He, says: 'Behold they possess the merit of the fathers. I have made an oath to the Patriarchs, therefore even if they are not worthy they shall receive their reward because they are the seed of the Patriarchs, therefore, even if they are not worthy they shall receive their reward because they are the seed of the Patriarchs to whom I have sworn. I will lead them, therefore, and direct them until they improve.'
So, too, should a man behave. Even when he meets with the wicked he should not behave cruelly towards them nor insult them but have mercy upon them saying: 'Even so, they are the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If they are not worthy their fathers were worthy and upright and he who brings disgrace upon the children brings disgrace upon the fathers and I have no wish that the fathers be despised through me.' And he should conceal their shame and improve them as much as is in his power.
XIII From the days of old
This is a quality which the Holy One, Blessed is He, possesses with regard to Israel. When, for instance, the merit of the fathers has come to an end and they are unworthy in themselves what does He do? It is written: I remember for thee the affection of thy youth, The love of of thine espousals.' The Holy One, Blessed is He, actually recalls all the good deeds they have done from the day of their birth and all the good qualities with which the Holy One, Blessed is He, controls the world. From all these He creates a special property with which to show mercy to them. This quality embraces all others as the 'Idra explains.
So, too, should a man behave. Even when he cannot discover any plea such as those mentioned he should still say: 'Behold there was a time when they had not sinned. And in that time or in former days they were worthy.' And he should recall the good they have done in their youth and remember the love of 'them that are weaned from the milk, Them that are drawn from the breasts.' In this wan no man will be found an unworthy recipient of goodness nor unworthy to be prayed for and to have mercy shown to him.
Until now, we have expounded the thirteen qualities by which man resembles his Creator. These are the qualities of higher mercy and their special property is that just as man conducts himself here below so will he be worthy of opening that higher quality from above. As he behaves, so will be the affluence from above and he will cause that quality to shine upon earth. Therefore, let not these thirteen qualities depart from the eyes of the mind and let not the verse depart from the mouth, so that it be a permanent reminder. And whenever there is the opportunity of exercising one of these qualities one will remember, saying to oneself: 'Behold, this depends on this particular quality. I shall not depart from it, so that the quality may not be hidden and depart from the world.'
with the good and saintly Who themselves go beyond the letter of the law.
I will be gracious Ex. XXXIII 19.
This storehouse is for those who are unworthy Ex. R 45 end. C. quotes this in the name of the Gemara, no doubt thinking of the passage in Ber. 7a: 'It is said: And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, although he may not deserve it, And I will show mercy on whome I will show mercy, although he may not deserve it,' but there is no reference here to a 'storehouse.'
the merit of the fathers has come to an end The Talmudic Rabbis debate whether the merit of the Patriarchs is exhausted, v. Sabb. 55a, Tos. ad loc. s.v. Ushemu'el.
I remember Jer. II.2
as the 'Idra explains Zohar III, 134b 'Idra means 'gathering.' The reference is to the portion of the Zohar known as 'Idra Rabba, 'the great gathering,' because it describes the secrets R. Simeon b. Yohai imparted to a gathering of his disciples. The 'Idra Rabba is found in the Zohar to section Naso, III, pp. 172b-145a.
them that were weaned... Is. XXVIII. 9.
the verse Who is a God like unto Thee...(Micah VII. 18-20)