26 Jul 2018 Parshas V’Eschanan – The Song of Prayer
This week’s parsha, Parshas V’Eschanan, contains within it some of the most far reaching edicts in our Torah. In the parsha, we read the review of the Aseres Ha’Dibros (the Ten Commandments) (Devarim 5:6-17) as well as the declaration of our faith: Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad (Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One) (Devarim 6:4).
The opening pasukim (verses) of the parsha teach us fundamentals of faith as well, specifically regarding tefillah (prayer). For it is here that we read of Moshe’s tremendous desire and longing to be allowed to enter into Eretz Yisrael, as he pleads with G-d for permission to cross the Jordan River. In his own words, Moshe says:
וָאֶתְחַנַּן, אֶל ה’ בָּעֵת הַהִוא, לֵאמֹר – and I prayed (entreated, implored) to G-d at that time, saying: Hashem, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness, and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth, who can do according to Your works, and according to Your mighty acts?! אֶעְבְּרָה-נָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן: הָהָר הַטּוֹב הַזֶּה, וְהַלְּבָנֹן – Please let me cross over, and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, the good mountain (Jerusalem – see Rashi) and the Levanon (the Beis Ha’Mikdash – see Rashi) (Devarim 3:23-25).
From the structure of Moshe’s tefillah, the Sages learn that when asking for our needs and wants, our desires and longings, one must first praise Hashem – Hashem, You have begun to show Your servant Your strong hand! – and then request – please grant me permission to cross over… (Brachos 32a).
We must always acknowledge the good and the blessings in our lives, before asking for more. Yes, we need; yes, we want; yes, we may lack; yes, we note a void that has yet to be filled. But let us first acknowledge the bounty of blessings that we do have, solely by the grace of G-d.
As profound and heartfelt as our prayers may be, we learn from Moshe Rabbeinu, our greatest leader and faithful eved Hashem (servant of G-d), that no matter how deep our longing may be – there is so much good and abundance that abounds in life, and for that, we must always first give thanks.
Miriam Peretz writes, “In the past few years, I have held a constant dialogue with G-d. I discover His mercy in every step of my life, in every angle and situation. On Rosh HaShana eve, I was standing in the kitchen, slicing meat, and I almost cut off my finger. At the last second, the knife fell from my hand, as if an invisible wall had sprung up between it and me. I lifted my eyes from the sink, looked through the window to the skies, and said to G-d: ‘Thanks for thinking of me. Thanks for having mercy on me, for permitting me to stand in beit knesset this Rosh HaShana without a bandage on my hand. I could have been seriously hurt, but at the crucial moment, You were here with me. Thanks for Your kindness to me.’
“There’s nothing worse than to lose two sons (Uriel d.1998, age 22, and Eliraz, d.2010, age 31 – both fell in battle during their service in the IDF). Yet I, who experienced the worst that could possibly happen, am busy all day long finding G-d’s kindness. One day I decided to do an exercise. I took a piece of paper and drew two columns. At the top of the first, I wrote, ‘List of my complaints to G-d,’ and for the second, ‘List of G-d’s kindness.’ The first list was short: Uriel, Eliezer (Miriam’s husband) and Eliraz were taken from me before their time. The second list was practically endless: my daughter Bat-El got married, little Gili danced and sang at their wedding, Uriel’s friend came to visit, my daughter-in-law Shlomit invited me to spend Shabbat at their home, despite a slipped disc in my back I can still go up the stairs and climb up to my children’s graves, I can open my eyes, stand on my feet, enjoy the blossoming of the tress, laugh with my rambunctious grandchildren – and the list goes on and on.
“My dance with G-d has become a daily event. I feel a deep connection to Him. I get up from bed after a sleepless night, I see the sun in the window and say, ‘Thanks for what I have right now.’ Not for the good that might come tomorrow or the next day, but for now. I say, ‘Thanks, G-d, for not forgetting me, for never being too busy for me. You’re always available to listen to my pain’” (Miriam’s Song, p.375-376).
How beautifully the Ba’al HaTurim teaches: ואתחנן בגימטרי’ שירה. שאמר לפניו שירה כדי שישמע תפלתו. The numeric value of the word וָאֶתְחַנַּן, “And I prayed” equals that of שירה, song, to teach you that Moshe recited songs (of praise) before G-d, so that He would hear his prayer.
It is easy to demand, to beg, to cry, to beseech, to ask for more, and more… and more. It takes a giant amongst men to teach us that we can sing for all the good that we do have, in recognition of G-d’s kindness to us, even while we want.
Reb Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810, Ukraine) taught, “What is the nature of your prayer? Is it possible to pray to G-d with words alone? Come and I will show you a new path to G-d. Not with words or speech, but with song. We shall sing, and G-d in Heaven will appreciate our thoughts” (Tales of the Righteous, by S. Raz, p.169).
May we always have the clarity and gratitude to first thank Hashem, with song and joy, and then ask from Him to bestow upon us even more.
Until the glorious end of days, when we will have no lack – neither personal or national. For at that great time, Hashem will return our captivity to Tzion; we will be like dreamers. אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק, פִּינוּ וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה, then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with song (Tehillim 126).
May we merit the immediate and everlasting nechama (comfort), redemption, shalom and blessing of eternal song.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,