The Gemara (Shabbos 133b) brings down the mitzvah of emulating Hashem (derived from Shemos 15:2). Just as He is merciful, so should you be, for instance (mah hu rachum af atah rachum).

Sotah 14a expands this with the statement that just as HaShem visits the sick (Bereishis 18:1), so should you, based on this mitzvah (this time based on Devarim 13:5). It's not just to emulate His middos, but His actions as well.

This leads to contradictions, though. For instance, HaShem kills those deserving of death who can't be prosecuted in court (see, for instance, Rashi to Shemos 32:35). Does this mean that if someone's guilty bidei shamayim we can kill him ourselves? Of course not. Only a Rodef, a Mored b'Malchus, and one sentenced to death by Beis Din are able to be killed. What happened to mah hu af atah?

"I wage wars," HaShem declares, as the passuk says (Shemos 15:3), "HaShem is a Man of war" (Avodah Zara 2b). Should we try to fight everyone? No. HaShem told us to seek out peace from whomever we can in most situations.

Obviously there is a line here. But how do we know where to draw the line?

  • Mah hu af parameters #ptij
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


Nice question! Maybe the idea is, see in the Torah if there is not something against it.

For example, we do not kill a guilty bidei shamayim, because as is said in the Torah:

ולא ימות הרוצח עד עמדו לפני העדה למשפט

Fighting everyone? But it is written

בקש של|ם ורדפהו

Hashem knows when we must not try emulating Him, and told us.

And, maybe because of your question, the talmud went out of its way to give a list of non-harmful emulations: to dress the naked, to visit the sick, to console the mourner, to bury the dead (in Sotah), to be merciful (in Shabbos)...


I like @yO_'s answer, which implies that some of the mitzvos were commanded explicitly to avoid our reaching the wrong conclusion by watching Hashem's behavior. But I wish to add a second possibility.

In R' Yehudah Amital's Et Ratzon: Sichot leYamim haNora'im (2012), RYA writes that "vehalakhta bidrakhav" ("and you shall walk in his ways") and the imitation of G-d the gemara you're asking about requires is not of all of Hashem's middos. For example, not "Keil Qana" ("the G-d of Vengeance", Shemos 2:4).

Rather, note that Abba Sha'ul (Shabbos 133b) says on "ve'anveihu -- ani veHu", "mah Hu Rachum veChanun" -- the middos he names for us to emulate are from the 13 Attributes of Mercy in particular. As the gemara (RH 17b) put it, Hashem taught Moshe the 13 Attributes and said that whenever the Jewish people sin, "ya'asu lefanai keseider hazeh" (they should do before me this order) and will always be accepted. Imitating the 13 Attributes is the key to guaranteed atonement.

A nice thought. It doesn't agree with the Rambam (Dei'os 1:6), though. But not every Torah thought will agree with every rishon.

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