Parsha Nugget Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
“Why doesn’t G-d answer my prayers?” The typical response, “He does, it's just that the answer is no” is not satisfying. Parshas Va’eschanan gives a more reassuring explanation:
“For which is a great nation that has a G-d Who is close to it, as is Hashem, our G-d, whenever we call Him?” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 4:7)
This week’s parsha begins with Moses praying that G-d will change His decree and let him enter the land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Israelites to keep G-d’s commandments and sets the example by setting aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the people the Shema prayer. Finally, Moses urges the people that rather than succumbing to prosperity they should diligently teach their children about the Exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.
Every good parent knows that constant gratification of a child’s wishes spoils him. Today’s helicopter parents do their children no favor by immediately responding to every sign of discomfort. Such behavior may make them feel like good parents but it infantilizes their offspring and gives them a false sense of entitlement that the world will not fulfill.
So when your prayer seems to go unanswered, consider whether G-d is saying:
- Not right now. While you may think that immediately granting your request is imperative, G-d has a longer view. Have you noticed how many young celebrities can't handle their fame and fortune? G-d’s insight sometimes leads Him to delay giving you what you want until you are ready. In the meantime, you have an opportunity to develop patience.
- You haven't shown enough desire. What have you done to show G-d you truly crave that for which you are praying? If you want wealth it's unlikely G-d will give it to you before you have spent the hours, days, even years to show you've committed to earning it. If G-d did not answer your first prayer, try again, more earnestly. There are opportune times for prayer that you can't discern. Keep praying.
- You have shown insufficient faith. Traditionally Jews pray for the same nineteen requests three times a day. Unlike a human ruler, who would be annoyed by such persistence, this tenacity shows G-d you understand that only He is capable of solving your problems and fulfilling your needs. You must convince Him, and yourself, of your faith if you want your prayers to be answered.
- You need to clean your slate. If your child misbehaved you would not reward him. Similarly, G-d wants your conduct to be sufficiently meritorious to justify granting your request. When your prayers seem to go unanswered, review your behavior, especially in the area related to your appeal. Mending your lapses allows G-d to heed your prayers.
Thinking of G-d as a celestial butler may be comforting. But your perception of the Almighty should attest to a mature understanding of the relationship He wants with you. Like a good parent, He rarely answers no. By working through the other options you will improve your character, deepen your faith, and model behavior that will enhance your marriage, friendships, and other relationships.
What do you do to get your prayers answered?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!
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