Rabbi Miriam's Blog
From Rabbi Miriam Hamrell
This Torah portion has been close to my heart for many years. Thirty-three years ago, when I celebrated my adult Bat-Mitzvah, this was my portion.
My great joy was when my grandfather, Ze’ev, Z”L, revealed to me at the reception, that this portion was also his Bar-Mitzvah portion 60 years earlier, back in Hungary, amazing coincident, “b’shert.” I dedicate my teaching to him, Ze’ev ben Natan Ve’Miriam.
Right in the beginning of our portion we read that Moses is saying, “I entreated (VaEt’hanan) to Adonai at that time…” There are a few interpretations to the word VaEt’hanan. Some of my books describe that Moses was appealing, imploring, beseeching, begging, pleading and praying for God’s compassion and merciful attributes to let him enter the Land of Israel. God answers Moses with a defiant, “No!” If this was not clear enough for Moses, God adds, "It is enough for you; speak to Me no more regarding this matter,” 3:26.
When we look at the root for the word VaEt’hanan, we find the letters Hanun. It expresses a strong form of prayer. We find the word Hanun and its derivatives throughout the High Holy Days prayer book. While I meditated on this powerful word it left me with the feeling of intense prayer. I was wondering, does God listen to my prayers only when they are intense? Does God listen to my prayers only when I beg, implore and plead? Do I need to “put God into the corner” and beseech Him for my prayers to be heard? When I am praying to God from a meditative, quiet and serene space, God does not hear me?
Why does Moses need to VaEt’hanan to God? God knows Moses very intimately, after all Moses is described as the most humble and loyal Servant of God. Does Moses think if he would plead with God, God would hear him better and say, “Yes?” After all what does Moses only want to do? He wants to conclude the journey he began in Egypt, by letting him enter the Land of Israel with the People of Israel. If Moses VaEt’hanah to God, what do we need to do to encounter God’s merciful attribute?
May our heartfelt prayers find a “Yes” answer with God. Amen
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.