Parshat Va’etchanan 5779: Moshe as a Paradigm of the Power of Prayer

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Va’etchanan is sponsored by Dov and Bracha Moses of Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated for a refuah shlaima for Rachel bat Chaya Perel and Shmuel ben Rivka and lilui nishmas both Chaya Perel bat Chaim Mordechai and Yehudit bat HaRav Me’ir Moshe. To the Moses family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Va’etchanan 5779: Moshe as a Paradigm of the Power of Prayer

by Moshe Burt

The Haftorah for our Parshat begins:

“Nachamu, Nacha.. mu Ami yomar Elokeichem” — “Comfort, comfort my people — says your G’d.”

This sentiment seems to be silent, but yet a theme of Parshat Va’etchanan.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim renders to English the opening posukim of our Parshat Va’etchanan (page 33):

“And I beseeched Hashem…, saying: ‘My Lord, Hashem, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand…. Let me now cross and see the good the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.’ But Hashem turned angrily against me… and He did not listen to me; and Hashem said to me: ‘It is too much for you! [Rav Lach = as it appears in posuk 26] Do not continue to speak to Me concerning this matter. Ascend to the top of the cliff and raise your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you will not cross this Jordan.'” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Devarim, Perek 3, posukim 23-27)

In the beginning of our Parshat, Moshe Rabbeinu recalls for the B’nai Yisrael how he entreated Hashem for permission to cross the Jordan River but that his request was denied. Instead, he was consoled by viewing the Land from Mount Pisgah. (L’lmod Ul’Lamed – Parsha Va’etchanan, page 161).

Rabbi Goldin provides an interesting commentary regarding Moshe’s tefillahs (prayers) seeking entry into Eretz Yisrael with the nation (“Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim, pages 39-40):

…In a telling observation… by later authorities (Rabbi Goldin citing Kli Yakar, Sefer Devarim Perek 3, posuk 25, and others), the Talmud overturns our original assumptions concerning the opening narrative of Parshat Va’etchanan. From the point of view of the Talmudists, the text does not emphasize Hashem’s rejection of Moshe’s prayer, but, rather His acceptance of those prayers — at least, in part:

The power of prayer is greater than the power of good deeds — for no one was greater than Moshe in good deeds, yet he was only answered through prayer. As the text relates: “Do not continue to speak to me concerning this matter, Ascend to the top of the cliff [and raise your eyes]…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Brachot 33b)

Here, then, is a very different take on the results of the dialogue between Hashem and Moshe. Moshe’s prayers are answered, after all. His words do have an affect, as Hashem relents. Although Moshe will still be prohibited from entering Canaan, he will now be allowed to view the land from afar. (Rabbi Goldin notes both Hashem’s allowance of Moshe to view the land in Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 27, posuk 12 and Moshe’s recapitulation of his request and Hashem’s response in his farewell speeches in Sefer Devarim)

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid, pages 41-42):

…Authorities suggest that the effectiveness of prayer and repentance in swaying Hashem’s judgements can be viewed from a… perspective [of] transform[ing] the supplicant. An individual who engages in heartfelt prayer and true repentance emerges from the experience a different person than he was before. In effect, therefore, the subject of Hashem’s original decree no longer exists. Hashem has not changed His mind; man has changed himself.

Whether as a mechanism for changing Hashem’s mind or as an experience through which a supplicant changes himself, for the Jew, a tool that never loses its potential effectiveness. “Even if a sharp sword lies upon his neck,” the Talmud maintains, “an individual should never refrain from [asking for Hashem’s] mercy.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Brachot 10a)

While we recognize that Hashem;s answer to our requests may well, at times be no, Moshe’s poignant supplications at the beginning of Parshat Va’etchanan remind us that it’s never too late to pray.

It seems to this author that we need keep these points in mind during our tefillahs, notably many a Chazzarat HaShatz and particularly in reciting Aleinu.

“Nachamu, Nacha.. mu Ami yomar Elokeichem” — “Comfort, comfort my people — says your G’d.”

B’Ezrat Hashem, as we pray and hope for each year, that the Tisha B’av just past FINALLY be the last Tzom for B’nai Yisrael.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.