Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vaeschanan

Parshas Va'eschanan begins with Moshe recounting his plea to Hashem that he be permitted to enter the land of Israel and Hashem's denial of his request. The Vilna Gaon teaches that Moshe had learned from the Malach HaMaves the secret to having prayers answered and that therefore Hashem had to tell him, "not a word more!"

The Vilna Gaon explains that Moshe had been taught that the use of the word "na" (please) twice in the same request is a formula for having prayers answered. The Vilna Gaon gives the example of the prayer that Moshe said when Miriam was sick "Kel na refah na la" - Hashem please heal her please. Of course we know that Miriam did recover.

In the same way Moshe sought to invoke the double "na" in Devarim 3:25 where he pleads "Ebra na v'ereh es ha'aretz hatovah" - can I please cross over and see the good land. The Vilna Gaon explains that Moshe wanted to add the word "na" a second time after the word v'ereh. However, (as related by Moshe in Devarim 3:26) Hashem told him to stop - "Al tosef daber eylai" - do not continue to speak to Me about this.

The Gemara in Sotah 14a brings a Medrash that explains the conversation between Moshe and Hashem. The Gemara asks - why did Moshe plead so insistently to go into the land of Israel? Did he need to eat its fruits and be satiated by its goodness? Rather Moshe said to Hashem - You have given the Jews many mitzvos which can only be fulfilled in Israel. Let me in so that I can observe the mitzvos. To this Hashem responds - since you wish the reward for keeping the mitzvos, I will give you the reward for having fulfilled them.

The Gemara's question and answer are difficult to understand. Why would Hashem think that Moshe's request was to simply eat the fruits of Israel? R' Chayim M'Volozin (as cited to in the Yalkut Lekach Tov) is bothered by the question and answer on an even deeper level - he asks whether Moshe only wanted the reward for the mitzvos (as opposed to doing the mitzvos themselves) and why is the answer that he will get the reward a sufficient response to Moshe's request?

R' Sorotzkin in his sefer Azanyim L'Torah suggests a thought which neatly ties up the questions raised above. R' Sorotzkin writes (mipi kabballa) that eating the fruits of the land of Israel has the power to deepen a person's devotion to Hashem. With this yedi'ah we can easily answer the above questions. Moshe did actually want to eat of the fruits of the land, because he wanted to attain this higher spiritual level. R' Chayim's question is answered in this way as well, Moshe did really want the result of the mitzva - it was not that he wanted to taste the fruits - he wanted to eat them in order to get the reward that came from eating them (the higher level of devotion to Hashem). As such, Hashem's answer to him was sufficient - although you will not make it into Israel to eat the fruits, I will give you the reward as if you did.

We can see the lesson of Moshe in our daily lives as well. In a shiur that I was listening to earlier today (available on, R' Mansour discussed how there was a gentleman who was a regular at the early minyan. Everyday like clockwork, the man would show up to shul and be one of the first ten for the minyan. One day the man came very late to shul and was in obvious distress. R' Mansour came over to him and asked why the man was late. The man explained AM and PM - he had needed to reset his clock and when he did so he accidentally set the alarm to go off in the afternoon. Since the alarm did not wake him at the proper time, he was unable to get to shul on time and he was quite upset about this. R' Mansour consoled the man and explained - there are times that we seek to do something but for whatever the reason we are prevented from doing so. If we think to ourselves - OK I guess I can't do the mitzva that I wanted to do, we are not given a reward for our actions. But when a person tries hard to do the mitzva and is prevented from completing the task through no fault of his own and he is disappointed, the person is credited as if he performed the mitzva.

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