Moses prayed so hard to be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Did it make a difference?
This week’s Torah reading is “Va’etchanan” (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11), which begins with Moses telling the Jewish People how intensely he had prayed in order to be permitted to enter the Land of Israel.
God punished Moses by not allowing him to enter the Holy Land when he hit the rock for water instead of speaking to it, as commanded. As a result of this deviation from God’s instructions, Moses was banned from entering the Land of Israel, even after his death for burial.
So badly did Moses want to enter the land and have his punishment commuted that, we are told, he uttered 515 prayers! This is alluded to in the first word of the Torah portion, Va’etchanan (“and I begged”), which has the numerical value of 515.
Alas, Moses’ prayers were not answered, and he died on Mt. Nebo, opposite Jericho, while Joshua led the people into the land. Nevertheless, God did relent somewhat by giving Moses a glimpse of the Holy Land. He told Moses to climb to the top of Mt. Nebo, from where he could see the entire land that the Jewish people were about to be given.
The commentators discuss God’s gesture of allowing Moses to see the land. While some view it positively, others consider it cruel and “teasing.” The question is asked: What purpose or value was there in allowing Moses to merely get a glimpse of the land he so badly wanted to enter?
The answer can be found in a cool Talmudic concept: If one wholeheartedly intends to perform a mitzvah, or good deed, but due to circumstances beyond his or her control cannot do so, God nevertheless gives the person credit for it!
Applying this idea to Moses, he did not yearn to enter the Land of Israel simply in order to enjoy the humus and falafel, or to suntan on the beaches of Tel Aviv or Eilat; rather, Moses wanted to enter the land for the opportunity to perform the many mitzvot of the Torah that could be fulfilled only in Israel. By allowing Moses to view the Land of Israel, God strengthened Moses’ desire to perform these mitzvot.
This intensified longing to enter the land in order to perform these special mitzvot allowed God to “credit” Moses as if he had performed them. Hence, the opportunity to gaze at the land was for Moses’ benefit. Moses could be credited for having fulfilled almost every mitzvah of the Torah throughout his lifetime.
This is an important message for all of us. It certainly happens occasionally that we intend to perform a mitzvah, but things get in the way. Don’t let it get you down. Take comfort in the fact that, unlike most employers, God “pays” for effort and goodwill, not merely for results.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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