I am writing this close to the time of reciting the first Selichot prayers before the beginning of the new year, at the end of the Shabbat before the holiday (or one week earlier if, as happens this year, there are not at least three days between Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah). A refrain in the Selichot which is repeatedly recited is the one quoted above: “Do not judge us.” We beg G-d and ask to be released from judgement on this fateful day. Our request to be released from judgement and to have “what we skipped in the prayers be a source of love” is based on the sentiments of King David, also quoted above: “For no human being can ever be considered righteous before You.” We are not capable of standing up to the demands of strict law, and we can only survive if they are applied together with a measure of mercy.
David was the one who “established the standard of repentance.” (“The words of David Ben Yishai, and the words of the man who was chosen to be supreme” [Shmuel II 23:1] – “He established the standards for repentance” [Avoda Zara 5a].) He asked to close the accounts of his sins (including sending Uriyah, Batsheva’s husband, to his death) outside of the realms of the courts – that is, beyond a strict legal framework, and not within regular legal processes. David knew that within the confines of the legal system there was not much opportunity for mercy. In fact, not only were his chances for mercy low, we see in his words a general call against ruling according to strict legal principles whenever there is reason for special considerations: “No human being can ever be considered righteous before You.”