Parshat Va’etchanan: The Price You Pray

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14 Aug 2008
Arts & Media

Pray tell-

Tale signs of entrance:


Even some predators pray.


I’ve seen them, smelled them,

In their imitation shawls and

Counterfeit tears: they close their

Eyes, sway back and forth, and mumble

Some incoherent supplication that is more

Bargain than plea


But not every letter whispered is a prayer;

And not every liturgy is tagged for heaven –

Some people just like to hear their own voices

As they speak lofty words but say lowly things.


Praying – like preying – is not difficult at all.

Knowing what to pray for, well now, that’s a

Whole different matter – or spirit – altogether.


I implored G-d


Humility prays to Reality.

For what does a true leader pray?

Why does the faithful servant beg

Of his Master something he has already

Been denied?


Let us put our ears to Heaven’s keyhole and,

If not eavesdrop, at least listen in (and perhaps

Hear something for a change)


Let me please cross

And see the good Land


Here we are, finally, at the end of the desert

And the beginning of the Promised Land:

At the conclusion of being pampered by

Heaven’s bread and Glory’s clouds, and

At the threshold of working Earth’s magic

And earning what is rightfully ours – at the

Journey’s sunset and the destination’s sunrise –


At our biggest challenge yet – transforming the

Holy Land into something divine, building a

Permanent home for Heaven, living in harmony

Even with those from whom we differ, much more

Challenging than drinking sweetened water and

Walking through split seas.


(Playing our own music to a sacred tune

Isn’t as easy as listening to a recording)


Now, the musicians about to cue up the symphony –

And the maestro barred from the ultimate stage.


So he prays, he implores, entreats, begs G-d:

Please, let me cross over, let me just walk the

Land, let me in to everything we’ve worked for

And everything we will work for.


Do you for a moment think Moshe wanted

To enter the Land for his own sake, just to feel

Accomplished or perhaps good about himself?


Moshe is a selfless leader – and, by definition,

A selfless leader does things for the good of the

Nation, even at his own great expense.


Moshe wanted to enter the Land for the people:

At their greatest challenge, their change of reality,

Moshe implored G-d to let him be with the people,

Help the people, inspire the people, lead the people.


Moshe knew we would struggle; he wanted to ease our burden.


But G-d said:


Ascend to the top of the summit

And raise your eyes


You cannot enter the Land; only see it.


The purpose of the Land, to change things

Bottom up, a grassroots growth, cannot be

Brought about by you: the people must

Work it without your physical presence but

Your spiritual vision – you may not enter

The Land, but you definitely will enter

Their hearts, their souls.


Moshe prayed for we the people to

Fulfill our destiny and truly enter the



Let us answer his prayers.


Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.