The Midrash teaches that “the Holy One said to Yisrael: Do teshuvah and repent while the gates of Repentance are still open, for in this world I accept bribery. But once I sit in judgment in the World to Come, I do not accept bribery. And what is the ‘bribery’ of this world? Repentance and good deeds.” Now, this is difficult to understand. How can repentance and good deeds be called “bribery”? If, for whatever reason, it was not proper to accept this person’s repentance, then how would any “bribery” be of any use? After all, the Holy One is the God of Truth!
Rather, the meaning of this is that in Heaven there are two systems—the system of Strict Justice and the system of Mercy. If the Holy One were to judge a person with the system of Strict Justice the person will almost certainly be found guilty, for Heaven will evaluate every single mitzvah the person did to see whether he did it with all proper care, with love and awe and with the joy of the mitzvah. Judged this way, the person will certainly be found lacking. But if the Holy One will judge him with the Attribute of Compassion and Mercy, [the Heavenly court] will provide exonerating circumstances to explain why he did not perform every mitzvah perfectly, in which case most of his mitzvah will remain valid and he will be judged favorably.
This is the “bribery” that the Holy One accepts from man. If a person acts towards his friend with the attribute of kindness and mercy, then the Holy One as well act with him in the same manner, and He will tip the scales in the person’s favor. But if the person himself is strict with all those around him and he treats them with strict justice, then the Holy One will treat him likewise with the same attribute.
The Holy One therefore urged us to act with the attribute of kindness so that He, too, will be able to judge us with the Attribute of Kindness and Compassion—for Hashem, may He be bless, is desirous of kindness.