In October 1994 a young IDF soldier was kidnapped and held for ransom by Hamas terrorists. His name was Nachshon Wachsman. For six days, the population of Israel was on edge, praying and hoping for his release. I recall going to the Kotel (Western Wall) to pray for his safe return, along with another 50,000 (!) people. But when the terrorists’ ultimatum came, although Tzahal had broken into the building where he was held, the terrorists got to him first, and murdered him. The country was heartbroken.
At the tear-filled funeral, his father publicly raised the theological question that we were all feeling: “You will be asking,” he said, “where did all our prayers go? Why were they not accepted?” He responded: “God did hear our prayers. But sometimes, just like a caring and merciful parent to his children; sometimes God’s response is – No”.
The opening of our parsha is a story where God says “No” It opens with Moses’ desperate and beautiful prayer:
Let me, please, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon.
But the Lord was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me.
The Lord said to me, Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again! (3:24-26)
Moses had spent forty years leading the Jewish people to the promised land. It is difficult to imagine the pain that Moses felt at the rejection of his plea to enter “the good land,” Eretz Canaan. But God refused.
Click here to read more from Rabbi Alex Israel in this week’s Parsha Discussion on VaEtchanan: When God says “No!”
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