This week’s Torah portion is called v’eschanan. Moshe relates to the Jews how he pleaded and begged G-d to be allowed to cross the Jordan and see Eretz Yisroel.
RASHI: Even though Tzadikim have merits, they daven for “matnas cheenum” they ask G-d to give them what they need, not out of merit but out of free gifts, just because Hashem loves to give. V’eschanan is but only one form of prayer. There are actually 10 forms of prayer. [ad kahn rashi..]
Think of times we are moved to pray: Tza’aka is one – that time when we scream out in pain – that is one form of prayer. There is a Reenah – a time when we are so overjoyed, we pray. Times we are so overawed – birth of a baby, at a spectacular sunset- — that we are moved to pray from a place of awe. This time, Moshe’s prayer takes on the form of asking “v’eschanan” – asking for free gift to go to Eretz Yisroel even though Hashem had told him he won’t go there.
Every moment in life has a connection point to Hashem. Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson recounts the story of the holy brothers Reb Elimelech and Reb Zushe. They were once put into a jail block with other prisoners. The holding cell had no bathroom facility. Rather, there was a bucket put in the room where everyone did their business. That meant the room reeked…and the holy rabbis would not be able to halachically daven. Reb Zushe was very, very upset. His brother, however, took him to task. He said, ‘before, you connected to Hashem and cleaved to him through formal prayer. However, now Hashem wants you to serve him and cleave to him by NOT praying, because that is the Halacha. Be happy with this new opportunity to serve Hashem in a manner you haven’t yet done.” Reb Zushe agreed with his brother….and out of joy of being able to serve Hashem now without davening, he began to sing a niggun and dance. His brother joined…then one prisoner and then another. Soon, the whole cell block was up and dancing a lively dance. The prison guard came running. “What is going on here?” he screamed, “why are you dancing.” “Those Jews started it,” (ah, we know that answer from many scenarios, don’t we). “Why are the Jews happy and dancing,” screamed the guard. One prisoner explained, “It has to do with that bucket full of !@#$.” “What?” exclaimed the guard, “How can that be?” “Not sure that I understand,” explained one prisoner, “but it seems that the Jews had a relationship with Hashem pre-bucket. But now, with the bucket they have a whole new relationship with G-d and that is why they are happy, with being able to connect to G-d with a bucket of $%^.” “Well, I’ll teach those Jews a lesson,” said the anti-Semitic guard. He picked up the bucket and removed it from the jail cell so that the two holy Jews’ “bucket relationship” would be ruined. Reb Elimelech now said, “nu, brother, now you can go daven.”
Many morals to this tale. One, that sometimes when we embrace our pain and difficulty, at that precise moment often Hashem removes that pain, since we have done our emotional work of accepting His will. Another: that even @#$% can connect us to Hashem. In fact, we sometimes gain a deeper connection through the yucky parts of life. You speak to folks who have gone through the valley of death and they talk of G-d’s presence in the operating room, in the midst of their grief, etc. You can serve G-d with the bucket, if that is what He demands.
Prayer is our tangible method of reaching out to G-d. Ten ways to do so. Scream from pain, dance with joy, marvel with awe…and sometimes, like Moshe, beg for free.
And no prayer ever is returned empty, as G-d points out further in the chapter. While Moshe cannot cross over the Jordan for now (until Yemos HaMashiach), he is allowed his second request — that of seeing Eretz Yisroel. Hashem makes a miracle for Moshe to enable him to see that which he wanted to see. A sneak-peek preview in a private showing of a beloved place.
May we all realize that no matter what life flings our way or where it flings us, on G-d’s contact info webpage, there are 10 different ways to get in touch with Him!