Va’etchanan (I pleaded)

Deuteronomy 3:23 And I pleaded with יהוה at that time saying, 24 O Adonai יהוה, אתה You have begun to show את־ your servant את־ your great וְאת־ and mighty hand: What other god is there in heaven or in earth that can do your works and mighty deeds? C-MATS

Question: What does “I pleaded” mean in verse 23?   Prayer is called by thirteen names: cry, howl, groan, stricture, song, prostration, encounter, judgment, entreaty, standing, appeal, and beseeching. Moses was beseeching יהוה. It is used when one seeks an undeserved favor, for truly righteous and humble people never feel that they have a claim on יהוה’s mercy. Moses never despaired, and continued to pray even though יהוה had told him the Land was closed to him, so we should never give up on יהוה’s mercy. The gates of tears are always open.  יהוה assured Moses that an enormously abundant reward — greater even than the Land — awaited him in the World to Come.

25 Let me cross over, I pray and see את־ the land that is good beyond the Jordan, the wonderful mountains and Lebanon. 26 But יהוה was angry with me for your sakes and would not hear me: and יהוה said to me, Speak no more to Me about this matter.

Question: Did Moses really expect to change יהוה’s mind? And if we believe that יהוה always does what’s best for us, is it even a good idea to try to change His mind? יהוה does always have our best in mind, and gives us what we need. There are times when יהוה could withhold from us certain things at the outset in order to teach us a lesson. Perhaps we need to examine the underlying motivations behind what we want or try harder to achieve worthwhile goals. Therefore when we are convinced, as Moses was, that it would have been good for the Hebrew people for him to enter the land with them, he had the right to assume that perhaps יהוה simply wanted him to try a little harder.

Question: There are times when things really do appear hopeless and it seems totally irrational to believe that things will improve. Why then does the Torah tell us to maintain hope even then? For several reasons. First of all, we really can’t know when a situation is hopeless. יהוה can do anything, even when it seems impossible. History is full of examples. During the Gulf War, for instance, Saddam Hussein fired 39 deadly missiles at Israel. Many of them exploded in the middle of busy cities, yet amazingly there was only one casualty. Secondly, it’s important to maintain hope and do whatever we can. Never give up, even when the sword is at our neck, meaning that even when things look hopeless, we should still try to do what we can. A negative attitude prevents us from doing that, because we don’t really believe we can succeed and we lessen our trust in יהוה.

Spiritual Exercise: Trust in יהוה always. Do not give up hope in any situation. Wait and see what יהוה will do for you.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in יהוה with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding.

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#45 Vaetchanan