Parshas Va’eschanan – How To Pray

By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui


Towards the end of Moses’ life the Bible says, he prayed and pleaded with G-d to allow him to enter the Holy Land of Israel. Prayer is indeed very powerful. One of the commandments of the Bible, is that whenever a person feels something lacking in their life, they turn to G-d and pray.

The word in Hebrew that the Bible uses to describe the prayers of Moses, indicates that Moses didn’t feel he deserved to enter the land, and notwithstanding that, he was imploring and petitioning G-d to allow him to enter.

One can argue. “Why must we pray to G-d to begin with?” In truth, He owes us our needs. Since G-d made us, He has some sort of responsibility towards our needs, wellbeing, and upkeep. In particular, if we are “well behaved” doing all that He asks us to do, certainly we should expect the good to come automatically, and when it’s not coming, we can consequently demand what is reasonable.

As far as the commandment to pray, we can explain, we are asking and praying that what G-d is “responsible” to give us, we are praying for it to be done in a pleasant fashion, and/or we are praying for going the extra the mile, and therefore, for the extras.

Moses is teaching us something very fundamental in the way we must pray and call upon G-d.

Prayer is a hallowed time for a person to meditate and connect with the Almighty. It’s not about what I can receive for me, rather it’s all about moving towards and coming before our Creator.

The proper way therefore, is not to come with demands even when we feel we deserve it. We always go before G-d with humility, as if we were asking for a gift, and that whatever is granted is pure graciousness.

The truth of the matter is, that no mortal human being ever has the merits to justify his requests. Even someone like Moses who understood his contribution to G-ds own people, he received the Ten Commandments and surely recognized his own virtues. The Bible describes Moses as “ the most humble person of any human being on the face of this earth.” Moses sincerely believed, if any other person was given all the opportunities he was granted, they would surely have performed much better than him.

What makes the righteous people special, is that their own accomplishments are never seen in their own eyes as being a reason to gloat about. Everything they do is always seen as merely doing their duty, what they should be doing, and when they stand before G-d, it’s like a poor person asking for alms.

The Midrash says, “The world has no claim against G-d.” Anything that a mere finite mortal does, can never add to the infinity of G-d. A human being must never think that what they do adds anything at all to G-d. The proper attitude is to see whatever we are granted as pure kindness from above. In G-ds kindness, the fact that He pays any attention to our deeds, that alone is G-d’s kindness and the fact that what we do, G-d in the Bible says, “He will reward,” is pure benevolence.

Moses is teaching us the virtue of humility in prayer as the Zohar says, “He who is big is small, and he who is small is really big.”


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