Parashas Vaeschanan

In this week’s parashah, Moshe declares to the Jewish People (Devarim 4:7): “For who is a great nation that has a God who is close to them like Hashem, our God, whenever we call to Him.” The Midrash expounds (Devarim Rabbah 2:12):
R. Chanina bar Papa asked R. Shmuel by Nachman: “What is the meaning of the verse (Tehillim 69:14), ‘As for me, may my prayer to You, Hashem, be at a time of grace ….’?” He said: “The gates of prayer are sometimes open and sometimes closed, while the gates of repentance are never closed.” … R. Anan said: “The gates of prayer are also never closed, as it is written, ‘like Hashem, our God, whenever we call to Him.’ And calling means praying, as it is written (Yeshayah 65:24, a verse quoted in the Aneinu prayer recited on fast days), ‘And it will be that before they call, I will answer; they will still be speaking and I will hear.’”
Thus, R. Shmuel by Nachman brings a proof from a Biblical verse that prayer is not always answered immediately, while R. Anan brings a proof from another verse that it is. The Maggid argues that both proofs are correct: Some people are answered only after a period of time, while others are answered right away. The key to the difference between the two types of people is indicated in the verse from Yeshayah that R. Anan quotes. The Maggid explains as follows. As the Gemara in Yevamos 64a teaches, Hashem yearns for our prayers. He therefore does not save a person from misfortune until he prays. But it is the way of the righteous to pray to Hashem for all their needs. They understand that there is no other way they can meet their needs, even the very simplest, aside from prayer. Common people, by contrast, rely on their own efforts, and try to meet their needs through any natural strategy they can think of. They pray to Hashem only when their own efforts have failed and they are at the end of their rope. Hashem therefore tends to help the righteous more quickly and the common people more slowly.
The Maggid brings out the point with a parable. In a certain town there was an expert doctor. A rich person in the town hired the doctor on a fixed basis, paying him a set salary for him to come each day to examine the members of his household. The other townspeople, on the other hand, had no dealings with the doctor unless they got sick, and then they would call the doctor to treat them and they would pay him for his efforts. The doctor, in turn, dealt with the rich man’s family differently from the way he dealt with the other townspeople. When someone from the general town population got sick, the doctor stretched out the treatment for a period of time so that he would be paid more. But when someone from the rich man’s family got sick, he tried to cure him as quickly as possible. Since the rich man was paying him on a fixed basis, he figured he might as well dispose of cases arising from the rich man’s family quickly.
Similarly, the way Hashem deals with a righteous man who constantly prays to Him differs from the way He deals with someone who is distant from Him and prays to Him only in a time of great need when his natural efforts have failed. To a person of the distant type, Hashem does not grant relief right away, for if He did, the person would fall back out of touch with Him. Instead, Hashem delays relief, so that the person will be led to pray to Him many times. On the other hand, when distress comes upon someone who turns to Hashem for his every need, Hashem responds more quickly. In this vein, David HaMelech entreats (Tehillim 86:3): “Show me grace, my Lord, for I call unto You all day long.” David is asking Hashem to save him from his current plight right away because he maintains constant contact with Him through regular prayer, and will continue to do so even after he is saved.
This is the idea underlying the verse from Yeshayah that the Midrash quotes: “And it will be that before they call, I will answer; they will still be speaking and I will hear.” Hashem generally relieves the righteous from misfortune before they are driven to desperate pleading, for He knows that after the misfortune is gone they will still be speaking to Him.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. North Jerusalem Maggid of Dubno Project » Blog Archive » Parashas Vaeschanan:

    […] nation that has a God who is close to them like Hashem, our God, whenever we call to Him.” I previously presented one of the Maggid’s commentaries on this verse; here I present another. The starting point is a plea that David HaMelech presented to Hashem […]

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.