Torah Fax

Friday, August 19, 2005 - 14 Menachem Av, 5765

Torah Reading: Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11)
Candle Lighting time: 7:30 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:30 PM
Shabbat Nachamu - Tu B’Av

Darkness and Light
This week's parsha continues Moses recounting of the events of the past forty years of the Jews' wandering in the desert. Moses opens his monologue about how he pleaded with G‑d to allow him to enter into the Land of Israel with the words:  "VaEtchanan, And I implored G‑d."
The Midrash observes that the Hebrew word for implored, VaEtchanan, has the numerical value of 515. Ba'al Haturim adds that the word VaEtchanan also shares the numerical of value of 515 with the word shirah, which means song. It should also be noted that the generic word for prayer in Hebrew is Tefilah, which also has the numerical value of 515.
In matters concerning Torah, every detail has significance. Furthermore, there are no coincidences in life and certainly not in Torah matters. The fact that Moses expressed his request of G‑d with the word " VaEtchanan, -And I implored G‑d," which has the same numerical value of the words "shira-song" and "tefillah-prayer," indicates that Moses' prayer involved both imploring as well as singing.
At first glance, imploring and singing have opposite connotations. Imploring connotes begging and pleading. In that state one is humble, vulnerable and constricted. Singing, by contrast, suggests a state of joy, confidence and expansiveness. How can we reconcile these two forms of prayer?
When a person's ego is big, they think that the world owes them everything. A person with an inflated ego cannot beg for anything; it is beneath their dignity. The bigger the ego the more one expects. And the less one receives the more frustrated they will be. And eventually this frustration leads to anger and depression.
On the other hand, a person whose ego is in check and is genuinely humble will think that whatever they have is a gift that is more than what anyone owes them. They will appreciate every bit of good they were privileged to get. And they will never take anything for granted, and will always be grateful for any amount of good they will receive.
It is obvious that this personality type will always be happy and have minimal complaints about their own problems (in contradistinction to the problems of others, which we should never feel comfortable about). A person with a diminished ego will get the most out of life, savoring every bit of it, and will not allow the negative to dampen his or her spirit.
Thus, the two forms of prayer, imploring and singing, are two expressions of the same personality type. Obviously, while one cannot simultaneously express the emotions of supplication and joy, nevertheless, both emotions spring forth from the same well of humility. The person who is humble will not hesitate to plead to G‑d for assistance, while also always exhibiting a sense of joy and contentment for all of G‑d's beneficence enjoyed up to the moment of prayer.
These paradoxical emotions that are associated with prayer have been expressed by our Talmudic Sages in the twin statements: "One should not get up to pray unless it is from a state of submission and humility," and "One should not get up to pray unless it is from a state of joy."
If humility and joy are necessary to be able to cope with the difficulties in life under normal circumstances, it is even more crucial in times of exile, and particularly in recent times. What makes the recent past so difficult is the phenomenon of good things occurring at the same time that some of the most horrific and troubling events are taking place.
This phenomenon—the mixture of light and darkness —was the way the world existed at its genesis. The teachers of Kabbalah have told us that the "end is wedged in the beginning." This would suggest that the current mixture of good and evil is an indication that we are at the end of the era of exile and at the dawn of a new age, the Age of Moshiach, when all darkness will be banished forever. Our preparation for that age involves taming our egos and increasing our feelings of joy.
Moshiach Matters
Rav said, "The world was created only for [King] David." Shmuel said, "The world was created only for Moses." Rabbi Yochanan said, "The world was created only for Moshiach." (Sanhedrin 88b)
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