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Veeschanan  5777/2017

01/08/17 16:50:27


by Rabbi Alan Wilkinson


‘THE POWER OF A PURE HEART’ – From Rav Tzadok HaKohen on the Parsha


‘In this week’s Torah portion, we find Moshe nearing the end of his extraordinary life. For forty years he dedicated himself with indescribable strength and devotion to the salvation and redemption of the Jewish nation. The Torah immortalizes his parting words, his final testimony:

‘I prayed to Hashem at that time... I prayed to enter the land of Israel. But Hashem got angry with me because of you and He did not accept my prayers. Hashem told me that I should not continue to speak to Him on this issue. Hashem became angry with me because of your matters. He swore that I would not be allowed to pass the Jordan River to enter the good land that Hashem your G-d gives to you. I will die in the land (east of the Jordan) [and] you will pass through and inherit the good land. ‘ [3:23-26, 4:21-22]

Coming from the most humble, patient, and dedicated leader the Jewish people ever had, these words are difficult to understand. They do not seem to fit his character. What is his message? Is he bitter and upset with his people, blaming them for the fact that he was not allowed to join them in the Land of Israel?

Rav Tzadok offers an amazing interpretation to this event. The parasha begins with Moshe recounting how he reacted upon hearing that Hashem would not allow him to enter the land: he prayed- v’eschanan. In fact, he prayed so much that Hashem finally had to silence him, saying, "Speak to me no more about this matter.’’ Hashem had to silence Moshe because if he would have continued to pray, Hashem would have been "forced" to allow him to enter the land despite the heavenly decree that he would not be allowed to do so!

Rav Tzadok directs our attention to a fascinating story from the Talmud [Bava Metzia 85b]. The great prophet Eliyahu was a regular participant in the Torah study that took place in the yeshiva of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi. One day, Eliyahu arrived late. Rabbi Yehuda asked the reason for his lateness. Eliyahu explained that he just returned from the Cave of Machpelah where our forefathers are buried. Here is how the exchange between Eliyahu and Rabbi Yehuda went:

Eliyahu: "I had to wake up the forefathers. First, I woke up Abraham, washed his hands, and waited until he finished his prayers. Then I put him back to sleep. Then I did the same for Isaac and then for Jacob."

Rabbi Yehuda asked: "Why didn't you wake all of them up at the same time?"

Eliyahu answered: "If I would have done so, they would have joined together in prayer and their prayer would have been so powerful that it would have brought the Mashiach before the appointed time.’’

Rabbi Yehuda asked Eliyahu, "Is there anyone in our generation who has such a commanding power of prayer?"

Eliyahu responded, "Rabbi Chiyah and his sons do."


This story reveals to us that there are individuals — a very small number — who have tremendous power of prayer. Even Hashem cannot interfere with their prayers! Moshe possessed a tremendous ability to evoke Divine mercy with his prayer, even when the gates of blessing were sealed shut. This is why Hashem had to ask Moshe to stop praying. Why did Hashem insist that Moshe stop? Why was Hashem so determined not to grant Moshe his request to enter the land? To answer this, Rav Tzadok cites a fascinating medrash:

‘Moshe spoke to Hashem, "Hashem, why have you decreed that I die with this wicked generation that angered you and rebelled against you? Future generations will say that I was equal to them." Hashem told Moshe, "Moshe, how can you enter the land? If you come into the land people will say that you took your people out of Egypt and buried them in the wilderness and chose a different generation to bring into the land. People will think that your generation, who died in the wilderness, has no portion in the World to Come. Therefore you should die along with them and return with them at the time of the resurrection of the dead. ' [Tanchuma, Chukas 10]

Hashem wanted Moshe to die along with his contemporaries so that in the future, when Hashem resurrects the dead, Moshe will be able to lead his own generation back to the land. They, too, despite all of their faults, must not be abandoned. They would need Moshe to be their leader. No one else would ever be able to satisfy the high spiritual standards of that remarkable generation. Understanding Hashem's desire, Moshe refrained from prayer. He chose rather to die and not enter the land than to abandon his people. Here is another incredible example of how Moshe put all self-interest aside for the sake of his beloved people.

We can learn a few important lessons from this:

  1. Tefillah has extraordinary power. It can "force" the Hand of Hashem to open the gates of blessing, even when we fall short of His expectations and are less than deserving. However, there is one condition. We must be selfless. Only a tefillah that pours forth from an absolutely humble and altruistic heart, like Moshe's, can open up "locked" gates.
  2. When we pray for our needs and desires, as urgent and justifiable as they may be, we should be prepared and willing to accept that Hashem’s will may be different from ours. In that case we can be certain that withdrawing our request is not only in Hashem’s best interest, but also in ours.

Good Shabbos.

Mon, 24 September 2018 15 Tishrei 5779