After the Golden Calf incident, Moshe’s asked Hashem to aid his reconciliation efforts, and Hashem taught him the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy by which God governs the world.
This formula is considered one of the core elements of teshuva, which is why it is a focal point of many prayers surrounding Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.
When Hashem taught them to Moshe that he would forgive freely, the Gemara cryptically allegorizes that Hashem wore a Tallis, as though leading a prayer service – שליח ציבור.
What is the point of the imagery of God as a prayer leader?
R’ Moshe Einstadter explains that the function of the prayer leader is to be the agent of the community represents those who don’t know how to join in – quite literally, שליח ציבור.
In order to participate, the people who don’t know what they are doing must depend on the people who do.
The leader can pray just fine on his own, yet since people need him, his prayers have an enhanced capacity that serves his audience’s needs.
We have the same relationship dynamic with God.
We all make mistakes. We are human, and we can’t help ourselves. We are fallible! The natural state of the universe is entropy, a tendency towards disorder and chaos.
The imagery Chazal offer proposes a powerful resolution.
To save us from our own frailty and fallibility, Hashem acts exactly like a שליח ציבור by granting us the gift of being able to make amends.