By: Rabbi Osher Jungreis
This weeks parsha is one of the richest, for within it are to be found the pillars of our Judaism – the Ten Commandments, Shema Yisrael, the Art of Prayer, Prophecy, and teachings that guarantee our Jewish survival. Just by reviewing this portion, we can gain an enormous insight into the essence of our faith. In the opening of the parsha (Deut. 4:1), Moshe Rabbenu prays to G-d, but the expression used for prayer is most unusual–“V’eschanan”, which is derived from the word “to find favor” and means that even if one is undeserving, nevertheless, G-d should answer and grant his request as a free gift. It is difficult to understand why Moshe Rabbenu, the greatest of men, would have to resort to such a form of prayer.
Certainly Moshe, more than anyone, could have felt that he was entitled to special consideration. Who, if not Moshe, was worthy of G-d’s help? But the truly righteous understand that there is no entitlement before G-d, for when we perform a mitzvah, when we live a righteous life, it is we who have to thank G-d for granting us that privilege. We are not doing G-d a favor when we fulfill the commandments; rather, it is we who become enriched and elevated. So when we seek out G-d in supplication, we have no bargaining points, but are totally dependent on His infinite mercy.
This message is especially significant to our generation. Too many of us harbor feelings of “entitlement”. In our foolish arrogance, we have come to believe that G-d owes us one, never realizing that it is we who owe everything, but everything to Him. Were it not for His constant mercy, in a split second we could lose our ability to function… even our very lives. Therefore, we commence each and every morning with these simple, but majestic words, “Modeh Ani”–“I thank You for returning my soul” and we proceed to express gratitude for all our bodily functions.
Nothing is to be taken for granted. To be sure, it is not easy to focus on prayer. It is one of the most difficult mitzvas to fulfill properly. Therefore, the pious ones of earlier generations would meditate for a full hour before prayer so that they might properly direct their words to G-d. Obviously, we are not on their level, but just the same, we should all endeavor to pray with greater concentration and zeal.
We are living in most precarious times. Both personally and globally, we are beset by overwhelming dilemmas. If ever there was a time when we needed prayer, it is surely today. Let us pray with all our hearts and not give up.
The expression “V’eschanan” (prayer in our parsha) in numerology totals 515, teaching us that Moses prayed 515 different ways and never lost faith…so surely, we must cling to G-d in our prayers. This teaching is reinforced by King David: “Kaveh El HaShem”–“Trust in the L-rd, strengthen your heart; trust in the L-rd.” meaning that we must keep praying. For it is in prayer that we find our greatest strength.