Va’Etchanan – Sometimes Gd Answers Prayers, and the Answer Can Be “No, Hold Off for Now”

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Rafi-HechtIn this weeks’ Parasha, we see that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to Hashem to enter Israel. However, the term used is “Va’Etchanan” (he entreated), as if he was trying to get on Hashem‘s “good side” as it were. Moshe’s intention in this case was to enter the land of Israel. This is unusual as nowhere else does it use that term to describe prayer.

Ultimately the answer was “no.” The interesting thing was that Rashi points out, quoting from Devarim Rabbah (11:6) that Va’EtChanan adds up to 515, indicating that Moshe prayed 515 times only to be told “no.” Why did Gd make Moshe “sweat it out?” Perhaps it would have been fairer to let him pray once, or tell him “don’t bother because you’re not getting in.”

Rabbi Eli Mansour mentioned that when Gd says “no,” he doesn’t discount the prayers said. No can mean “hold off for now,” and Gd will store those prayers in a “prayer bank” as it were. Rabbi Mansour quotes Rabbinic sources stating that Moshe’s prayers were so precious that Hashem decided to utilize them for whenever Jews faced hardship or crisis. Kabbalistically it may refer to Moshe’s prayers being utilized for 515 Shmitta 7-year cycles. The bottom-line is that while the immediate answer may be “no” it can mean “yes” for something else that only Gd knows about at this current time.

    The War in Gaza and the Three Boys

    In a way we can tie this in with the existing war in Gaza. Let’s rehash: three precious boys, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel were killed in cold blood not long after being kidnapped. Their pleas for help to the Israeli police fell on deaf ears until they finally got around to the case some 8 hours later. There was an 18 day search for their bodies, at which point countless prayers, Tehillim rallies, Torah studies and additional lit Shabbat candles were arranged. Once the bodies of the three boys were found, many of us were asking ourselves, “What was all that for? How could Gd answer ‘no’ to so many precious prayers?”

    Fast forward 2-3 months later. The deaths prompted a mass funeral which, in the heat of the moment, some not-so-bright Israelis killed a “Palestinian” Arab in retaliation. This led to rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel which then led to this current war. In the process, IDF soldiers ended up finding numerous tunnels that Hamas invested years in building and destroyed them in mere moments.

      It gets better. According to one of the Hamas terrorists being interrogated, the sole purpose of building those tunnels was to reach Israel during Rosh Hashana 2014. Rosh Hashana is typically a time when most soldiers would leave their posts to daven, leaving a much smaller staff and enabling these terrorists to capture and kidnap dozens of civilians while everyone would be – you guessed it – praying. It’s almost as if had Jews around the world not united in prayer and “held off” then, Gd certainly wouldn’t have listened to our prayers and “held off” on one of the holiest days of the year! In essence, the sacrifice of three precious souls saved potentially countless more Jewish/Israeli souls, through prayer.

      The Converse: Bill Clinton Not Killing Osama bin Laden

      Conversely, it has recently surfaced through social media that former U.S. president Bill Clinton admitted that on September 10th, 2001, while attending a dinner in Australia (over there it was already September 11th) that he could have gotten Osama bin Laden in 1996, back then a regular-profile terrorist, but to do so he would have killed 300 innocent civilians in a town called Kandahar in Afghanistan which he didn’t want to do as he wouldn’t have been much better than those terrorists. Little did he realize that just 10 hours after he blurted out those fateful words, airplanes manned by 19 terrorists, following the instructions of the very same terrorist that Clinton spoke about before, knocked down the Twin Towers, damaged the Pentagon and in the process killed not 300, but more than 3,000 people. Bill Clinton’s “holding off” indeed had dire consequences and action could have permanently changed the face of the world as we know it today.


      While I am still personally suspicious that many more tunnels were left behind, the fact remains that in this instance, not only did Gd allow Israel to destroy many tunnels reserved for when Rosh Hashana occurs, but also keep Israel on high alert, thereby saving as many lives as possible. Shabbat Shalom!