According to the Gemara Rosh Hashana (17b) the recitation of the 13 attributes of God leads to forgiveness:

א"ר יוחנן אלמלא מקרא כתוב אי אפשר לאומרו מלמד שנתעטף הקב"ה כשליח צבור והראה לו למשה סדר תפלה אמר לו כל זמן שישראל חוטאין יעשו לפני כסדר הזה ואני מוחל להם

It seems strange to me that God would be more affected by particular words.

Do any Rishonim address this?

Note: evidence that Rishonim reject this Gemara would be an appropriate answer.

Clarification: The question seems clear, but I will reiterate: Granted that God responds to prayer, but why should he be particularly affected by particular words; its not like He is going to get emotional over them. If instead they are simply meant as prayer (rather than as a means of effecting some particular change in God, emotional or otherwise) then why would some words be more effective than others? Prayer is ultimately עבודה שבלב; an internal process, even if one expresses it externally.

  • Note: if any Rishonim interpret יעשו לפני כסדר הזה to mean anything other than recitation of the 13 attributes, then that constitutes an answer.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:54
  • I don't have a source ATM, but I do recall that many infer from the use of the word "יעשו" that just saying the words has nothing to do with anything, but rather that we should internalize and emulate the 13 Attributes.
    – MTL
    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:56
  • Would that thought (with a source!) be a valid answer to your question?
    – MTL
    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:56
  • @Shokhet I thought I remembered that too. The fact that they feel the need to assert this though, coupled with the fact that we do indeed ritually recite the attributes in prayer, leads me to assume that this isnt the traditional interpretation.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:57

1 Answer 1


The Alshikh (B'midbar 14:20) says that he heard in the name of the Sefer Livnat HaSapir that the intent of the Gemara is not that one recite the attributes, but rather to perform them ourselves. The same author, R. Avraham Saba writes this in his Tsror HaMor (Parashat Ki Tisa s.v. Vayered Hashem):

אנו רואים הרבה פעמים בעונותינו שאנו מעוטפים בטלית ואין אנו נענין, אבל הרצון כל זמן שישראל עושים כסדר הזה שאני עושה, לרחם לחנן דלים ולהאריך אפים ולעשות חסד אלו עם אלו, ולעבור על מדותיהן כאומרם כל המעביר על מדותיו וכו', אז הם מובטחים שאינן חוזרות ריקם. אבל אם הם אכזרים ועושי רשעה, כל שכן שבהזכרת י"ג מדות הם נתפסין

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