From the teachings of Maran Rebbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztzvk”l
(written by his grandson HaRav HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a)
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
We read in the Haphtarah, “Comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d” (Yeshaya 40:1). The chachamim explain in the Midrash that when the First Bet HaMikdash was destroyed Hashem saw what had happened to Klal Yisrael, therefore Hashem said to the prophets, “…when I became slightly wrathful, they augmented the evil” (Zechariya 1:15), these are the wicked people who didn’t have any mercy on Am Yisrael, they slaughtered them like sheep. They took the Sanhedrin and slaughtered them all. They took children from the Talmud Torah and in sheer cruelty slaughtered them. These are the cursed wicked. Hashem was full of pain, how could Klal Yisrael reach such a distressing situation? How could they have gone like sheep to the slaughter?
Therefore Hashem summoned the prophets and said to them, “Speak consolingly of Yerushalayim”(Yeshaya 40:2). Go and comfort my People! When the prophets came to comfort Yisrael, Yisrael said to them, is it no longer fitting for Hashem to speak directly with us? For the passuk states, “Tziyon said, ‘Hashem has forsaken me’” (ibid. 49:14). Hashem has already forsaken us so what will your comfort achieve? A person whose daughter was killed, his children killed, what will comfort achieve? Therefore they said to the prophets, “Go from here! We will not accept comfort from you!”
The prophets came and relayed to Hashem, “Ribono shel Olam, your people aren’t prepared to accept comfort!” He replied to them, “Yisrael are correct! Therefore “I, only I, am He Who comforts you” (ibid. 51:12) Hashem Himself will comfort you! And so you shall see in all the ensuing Haphtarot that the prophets say that Yisrael aren’t prepared to accept comfort, “O afflicted, storm-tossed one, who has not been consoled” (ibid. 59:11). And Hashem responds, “I (Anochi), only I (Anochi), am He Who comforts you”, in the merit of I (Anochi) am Hashem your G-d, that you accepted upon yourselves with the Ten Commandments, “I (Anochi), I (Anochi)” am He Who comforts you. Yisrael heard this and their minds were at ease.
A parable is related regarding this. There were two couples that lived in the same neighbourhood. One was wealthy and the other poor. The wealthy one’s wife by nature was not an easy person, she was a nervous person, and she would regularly attack him, as such, he was very distressed. One day they had a massive row, the husband got up and left, travelling to America. After he left, his wife just sat and cried, “My husband, my husband! Who will return him to me?” She was in a state of regret knowing that she hadn’t behaved properly.
Now the wife of the poor man was an easy going and good person, yet despite this they lived in great poverty. The poor man said, “I will travel to America and perhaps there I will be able to provide a livelihood for my family.” He sought his wife’s permission, and set off to travel. And so they both travelled, the wealthy man and the poor man, both on the same plane. When they arrived in America, they both stayed in the same hotel. Over the next days, the two neighbours eagerly waited for their husbands.
After about a month, a merchant from America arrived and told the two ladies that he has letters for them from their husbands. The wife of the wealthy one said, “Sir, please give me my husband’s letter!” The merchant replied, “I’m afraid I cannot do that now, you see all, my belongings are packed, at the moment it is difficult for me, come back tomorrow and I will give you the letter.” The lady replied, “Okay, thank you very much,” and off she went.
The poor man’s wife also asked the merchant, “Please can you give me my letter.” The merchant replied, “You see madam, currently all my belongings are packed in suitcases, come back tomorrow and I will give you your letter.” But she continued to pressure him, “Please would you make the effort to find the letter amongst your belongings.” The merchant asked her, “Why is it that your neighbour, when she saw that it was difficult for me to locate the letter, she accepted it and went away, but you are pressuring me so much to give you the letter?”
The poor lady replied, “Regarding my friend, her husband left because of a row, so the moment you told her that her husband sent her a letter, she was relived, she said to herself, ‘see, my husband is thinking of me.’ But I love my husband and my husband loves me, and he only travelled in order to provide for his family. In his letter he will certainly write whether he has been successful, and therefore the mere fact that he has written me a letter doesn’t put me at ease, for I need to know what’s written in the letter!”
So too with Hashem, “…for nothing prevents Hashem from saving, whether through many or through few” (Shmuel 1, 14:6) but we haven’t behaved correctly, we have angered Him and now He sent us a messenger who says, “Comfort, comfort My people”, listen Yisrael and understand, Hashem hasn’t forsaken us! He still thinks about us! Their mind was put at ease.
In this week’s Parasha will read, “At that time I pleaded with Hashem, saying”” (Devarim 3:23). Moshe Rabbeinu supplicated before Hashem that He should allow him to enter the land of Israel. Hashem said to him, “Listen Moshe, I would listen to you, but Am Yisrael have nearly all perished in the wilderness, “They will end their lives in this desert” (Bamidbar 14:35), if you will be with them in the wilderness, then when you are resurrected you will bring them all with you, but should you enter the land, then I have no further business with them!” Moshe heard this and accepted it. Moshe is the “Faithful Shepherd”, for as soon as Hashem said this to him, he agreed and accepted the words.
Our chachamim said that the Hebrew word “Va’etchanan” - “I pleaded” has the numerical value (Gematria) of 515, corresponding to the 515 prayers that Moshe prayed before Hashem to allow him to entre the land! Hashem heard a prayer and yet another prayer, this was Moshe the prophet, from whom it was a pleasure to hear his voice! After he concluded 515 prayers, Hashem said to him, enough! “Enough! Do not speak to Me any more about this!” (Devarim 3:26).This is surprising, someone who hears 515 prayers, what could happen if he heard another one or to prayers? What actually transpired here?
The explanation is as follows. Our chachamim knew how to appease their Creator. Like King David who would start asking for something small and then continue to ask for something bigger. David said before Hashem, “Who can discern mistakes? Cleanse me from unperceived faults” (Tehillim 19:13), Ribono shel Olam! Every person makes mistakes “Who can discern mistakes?”, therefore “Cleanse me from unperceived faults”, forgive me. Hashem responded to him, okay I have forgiven. David continued, “Also from intentional sins, restrain Your servant; let them not rule me” (ibid. ibid. 14), when he saw that the door had already opened, he continued and requested also for the intentional sins, also the sins that I committed wittingly, forgive me! Hashem replied to him, I forgive you! David continued, “and I will be cleansed of great transgression” (ibid.), also if I have a very severe sin, forgive me!
And likewise King David said, “Show us your kindness, Hashem, and grant us your salvation” (ibid. 85:8), at first, he only sought to see Hashem’s kindness and then afterwards to “grant us your salvation”! And likewise did Moshe Rabbeinu. At first, he only requested to see Eretz Yisrael and prayed a huge amount regarding this. Indeed Hashem said to him, “Climb to the top of the cliff, and gaze to the west, north, south and east” (Devarim 3:27). But when he continued to request to enter Eretz Yisrael, Hashem responded to him, “Enough! Do not speak to Me any more about this!” (ibid. ibid 26).
There was a person who was a government minister and received an order to travel to America to study a specific course to assist him with his governmental duties. The minister came home and told his wife, “See, I must travel to America for a full month, in order to study a very specific course.” She agreed and said, “Fine, have a pleasant journey!”
However, this minister had a dear child who was very bright. He heard that his father was travelling to America. He began to cry! He cried out loudly and bitterly!” Daddy! I want to come with you!” His father said to him, “You have to go to school! Why do you want to come with me?” He continued to cry and cry. His father said to him, “Come here, I promise you, if you will be a good boy, I will buy for you a gold pocket watch with a gold chain!” “Really?” Said the child, “A gold watch? Wow! Great daddy! Have a safe journey!”
The minister travelled and after a month returned home in the morning, at the time when his son was still at school. The minister asked his wife, “How has our son been?” She replied to him, “Ah! He gave me so much trouble! I ran after him from room to room to get him to drink a cup of milk and he just wouldn’t agree!” The minister said, “If so, I won’t give him the watch!”
In the afternoon, the child returned home. “Welcome daddy!” His father replied to him, “with a low tone and bowed head” like on Tisha B’Av, “Shalom”. The son knew that his mother had turned his mind against him, therefore he remained silent. “Do not try to appease someone when they are angry” (Avot 4:18). After a while, they all sat down to eat supper. They began eating and then the father told his wife, how I was here and how I was there! I was at the United Nations, sat there were all these rats, these wicked people who are always against us! Suddenly our ambassador got up, he is incredibly wise, and replied to them unleashed, thereby destroying their allegations!” His wife heard and was pleased, she laughed in joy. The father continued to relate, “You know, I went up one of the tall skyscrapers and viewed all of New York, all of New York was in the palm of my hand!” She listened and was intrigued.
When the son saw that this may be an opportune moment, his mother laughing and his father happy, he turned to his father and said, “Daddy, forgive me, you promised me a gold watch, can I just see it, please just give it to me to see!” The father looked at his wife and she was smiling; he took at the watch and showed his son. “Daddy, please give it to me, please give it to me! I promise that if you give it to me, I will be a good boy!” His father said to him, “You said you just want to see!” The boy replied, “That’s right, but now, please give it to me!”
This is what King David did, “Show us your kindness, Hashem, and grant us your salvation”. Therefore Hashem said to Moshe, “Do not speak to Me any more about this!” For He knew what Moshe wanted to continue to ask!
Hashem loves the tzaddikim, He is fond of them, listens to their pleas, “Show Me your prayerful gaze, let Me hear your supplicating voice, for your voice is sweet and your countenance comely ” (Shir HaShirim 2:14). May Hashem completely redeem us, and build for us the Bet HaMikdash and return the crown to its rightful place, with the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu, let it be Hashem’s Will and let us say Amen!