Parashas Vaeschanan

This week’s parashah begins with Moshe Rabbeinu telling the Jewish People the following (Devarim 3:23-27):
And I pleaded to Hashem at that time, saying, “My Lord, God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand …. Let me, please, cross over and see the goodly land on the other side of the Jordan – this goodly mountain and the Levanon.” And Hashem got angry at me on your account, and He did not listen to me. And Hashem said to me: “It is enough for you. Do not speak to Me again further about this matter. Go up to the top of the cliff and lift up your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward and see with your eyes, for you will not cross this Jordan.”
The Maggid notes that Hashem’s reply to Moshe contains a duplicative phrase: “Do not speak to Me again further (al tosef dabeir eilai od).” It would have been enough to say, “Do not speak to Me further” – the word “again” is apparently extra. The Maggid sets out to explain the double language.
He builds on the following teaching (Vayikra Rabbah 5:8):
R. Shimon taught: “The Jewish People are well-skilled in gaining their Creator’s good will.” Said R. Yudan: “Like those Cuthites, who are clever in begging for a handout. One of them went to a woman’s home and asked her: ‘If you have an onion to spare, please give it to me.’ When she gave it to him, he asked: ‘Can a person eat an onion without bread?’ When she gave him bread, he asked: ‘Can a person eat without drinking?’ In this way, he obtained ample food and drink.” … Similarly, David HaMelech was clever in negotiating with Hashem. He began with a lyrical praise (Tehillim 19:2): “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” … Hashem asked him: “What are you seeking?” He replied (ibid. 19:13): “Errors, who can understand?” – “I seek pardon for the transgressions I committed in error.” Hashem replied: “You are pardoned.” David then continued (ibid. 19:13, end): “From the secret things, cleanse me” – “Pardon the sins that I committed deliberately in secret.” Hashem replied: “You are pardoned.” David then continued further (ibid 19:14): “Also from the rebellious sins [committed openly], spare Your servant.”
It is the way of righteous men to ask Hashem at first for just a little, and then, if they see that it is a time of favor, they turn to Hashem again and ask for something further. David HaMelech’s series of pleas in the above Midrash is an example of this approach. Another example is Avraham’s pleading on behalf of Sodom. At first, he asked Hashem to spare the city if it contained fifty righteous men. He then progressively reduced the number down to ten.
In the interchange recorded at the beginning of this week’s parashah, Moshe intended to take the same approach. He asked Hashem: “Let me, please, cross over and see.” He was asking Hashem to allow him to enter Eretz Yisrael for a short time and take a look at the land, even if he would die right afterward. He was planning, if this request were granted, to ask for more. But Hashem preempted him, telling him: “Look, I will grant your request to see the land. Go up to the top of the cliff and lift up your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward and see with your eyes. But only on condition that you do not ask Me for something else afterward, as you planned to do. It is enough for you that I am granting your request to see the land. Do not turn to Me again with a further request.”
The Maggid uses the idea of iterated requests to explain a verse that we say every day in our prayers (Tehillim 85:8): “Show us, Hashem, Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.” He brings out the point with a parable. A man went off on a business trip. Before leaving, he promised his son to bring him back a gift, and while he was away he bought him one. But when he came home, he found out that his son had hit his mother and spoken insolently to his teacher, and so he hid the gift. Now, the boy felt sure that his father had kept his promise, so he stayed quiet. A few days later, when his father’s anger  had died down, he approached his father and said: “Father, please show me the gift you bought me during your trip, so that at least I will know what it is.” His father showed his son the gift, and then the boy said: “Thank you, Father. Now please give it to me.” Similarly, we first ask Hashem to show us the kindness He has in store for us, and then we turn to Him again and ask Him to grant it to us.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.