VE’ ESCHANAN (Deuteronomy, 3:23-7:11) — “Thou Shalt Not Pray?!”

Moses wanted to enter the      Land      of      Israel.  He REALLY wanted to enter the Land.  He wanted to fulfill the Mitzvahs such as tithing that can only be done in Israel.  He wanted to see the Temple built.

G-d said no.  But that didn’t stop Moses from trying.  He prayed, he entreated, he begged.  He even tried to negotiate.

G-d’s answer was unambiguous:

“Enough!  Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter.”  (Deuteronomy, 3:26)

G-d made it very clear to Moses that the case was closed; there was nothing more to talk about.  The answer was a clear, resounding, “NO!”  Moses would not be permitted to enter the Land.  (See “Stone Drunk”.)

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Why did G-d tell Moses to stop?  Let him ask if he wants!  He’ll eventually get the message when he sees that G-d won’t let him in.

The Talmud (Yevamos, 64) states that G-d “longs for’ the prayers of the righteous.    When holy people praise G-d and make requests of Him, they bring sanctity to the world.  So what was wrong with Moses’ prayer?

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin writes that the reason G-d wants the righteous to pray is that the name of Heaven is sanctified when people see that prayers are answered.  Even if it takes years for a prayer to be answered, when in fact, the prayer is answered; people see the greatness of G-d.

The problem here, says Rabbi Sorotzkin, is that this prayer already had an answer, and that answer was “No.”  G-d had sworn that Moses was not to enter the Land; the decree was non-negotiable.  There was nothing to be gained by prayer, and therefore, Moses was told not to waste his words.

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“Enough!  Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter.”  A fascinating retort.  To my knowledge, there is only one other place where we read of someone being told not to pray.  That person was Moses.  The event was the Golden Calf.  G-d was furious with His Nation, and He wanted no interruption from Moses.  Or, so He SEEMED to suggest:

“Now, leave me alone.  Let My anger flare against them and I will annihilate them; and I will make you a great nation.”  (Exodus, 32:10)

Rashi points out that until that point, Moses hadn’t been praying to G-d to forgive His People.  Only when G-d told him NOT to pray, so that He could be “free” to destroy them, did Moses understand that his prayer was exactly what was needed to save the day.  G-d was hinting to him that he SHOULD pray.

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Other than these two situations, I have never heard of anyone being told not to pray.  Do you know why that is?

The reason, I believe, is obvious.  One time and one time only, G-d made it clear that prayer was not appropriate because it was impossible for that prayer to accomplish its intended goal.

We all know sick people.  We all know individuals who are suffering.  We all know that the world is a very precarious place, full of deranged, wicked people who seek to destroy Israel, America, and all that is good.

Pray.  You’re not Moses.  G-d never told you not to pray.  He never told you not to pray because, unlike Moses’ prayer, yours qualifies for a positive response.  So what are you waiting for?  Go pray!

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I have a friend who went into the hospital yesterday to have three stents inserted into his arteries.  X-rays taken six months ago showed that three of his arteries were 80% blocked and the purpose of the surgery was to prevent a heart attack.

My friend asked many of us to pray for a successful surgery.  We recited prayers for Avraham Aharon ben Roza Leah.

Yesterday, as he was being prepped for surgery, they took a new x-ray, to see how much worse his arteries have gotten since six months ago.  The arteries were clear.  That doesn’t happen without some sort of procedure being done.  The surgeon thought he knew his patient’s complete medical history.  But now he wasn’t so sure.

“In the past six months, have you had any intervention?” he asked his patient.

“Sure,” my friend said with a smile and a thumb pointed upward.  “Divine intervention!” 

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives

“I Understand Exactly How You Feel” (2013) 

In my line of work as a rabbi, I find myself involved in lots of lifecycle events.  Since I am a chaplain for senior citizens, these events are, all too often, sad ones.

What does one say to a mourner who is sitting Shiva for a loved one?  Something I was taught early in my career was to never, but never, say, “I know how you feel.”

Because you don’t.  No one does…

I prepared to leave.  I offered them the traditional farewell to a mourner…

Then I paused.  “Today,” I said, “…

Read more.

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“Thou Shalt Not Pray?!” (2007) 

Moses wanted to enter the Land of Israel … G-d said no.  But that didn’t stop Moses from trying.  He prayed, he entreated, he begged.  He even tried to negotiate… 

G-d made it very clear to Moses that the case was closed; there was nothing more to talk about.  The answer was a clear, resounding, “NO!”  Moses would not be permitted to enter the Land… 

Let him ask if he wants!  He’ll eventually get the message when he sees that G-d won’t let him in… 

Read more

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“Do as I Say, Not as I Do!” (2005) 

… I often hear and read criticisms of religious Jews for not being willing to be open to other people’s opinions.  Case in point…  I respectfully requested that they remove my congregation from their letterhead… I later heard that when my request was discussed at their board meeting, I was raked over the coals as a dogmatic ideologue.  Why is he so intolerant, they demanded…

Read more

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“Sheepskin or Cheapskin?” (2004)

Overheard conversation: 

“I bought an absolutely gorgeous Mezuzah for my apartment!”

“Great!  I can’t wait to see it!”

“Oh, yes, it’s really beautiful.  Ornate, hand-carved mahogany, inlaid with cherry, and sterling silver trim.  It’s a one-of-a-kind!  Now all I need is the little paper that goes inside!”… 

Read more

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“Why are we Whispering?  What’s the Big Secret?” (2003) 

… Jacob was lying on his deathbed.  His twelve sons stood by his bedside, awaiting his blessing.  He was concerned.  “How do I know,” he asked, “that you will continue to worship the One G-d after I’m gone? How do I know you will not become idol worshippers?”… 

Read more

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“Double Talk” (2002)

 … A religious person I know once confided in me that the fulfillment of a particular Mitzvah was very difficult. “I do it because I have to do it, but it’s a real pain in the … (neck!)” … When my children were very young, we were concerned as to how to give them a positive feeling about the Sabbath. It’s a real challenge when a 2-year-old child sees his mother light candles, and is then told, “No, sweetheart, you can’t listen to your ‘Uncle Moishie’ tape, because it’s Shabbos…No dear, you’re not allowed to play with that toy on Shabbos.”

How do you inculcate your child with a love of Shabbos? How do you teach him that it’s more than a day of restrictions?  …

Read more.

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“The Devil Made Me Do It!” (2001) 

…  We see in this week’s Torah reading that there is a Mitzvah to safeguard one’s health.  We all know that it’s not healthy to overeat.  We understand that the Torah requires us to lower our cholesterol and triglycerides.  Yet, that third slice of cheesecake beckons.  Just as our resolve is about to melt, our deliverance comes from an unlikely place…

Read more

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2013 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on July 27, 2007 at 5:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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