ואתחנן אל ה' בעת ההוא לאמר, ה' אלקים אתה החלות להראות את עבדך.
“And he pleaded with Hashem at that time saying: ‘Hashem the Al-mighty, You began to show Your servant.” (Devarim 3:23)
Why does the verse add the two extra words בעת ההוא - “at that time?” Obviously, Moshe pleaded before Hashem at the time he prayed. The word “You” also seems to be unnecessary, because Moshe was already addressing Hashem. The verse could have said simply: “And he pleaded with Hashem: ‘Hashem the Al-mighty began to show Your servant.”
As we know, every word in the Torah carries a special message. We can glean a very poignant lesson from this verse.
When we pray, we speak to Hashem in the first person: “You.” How can we speak to Hashem in such a direct manner? Usually, when someone speaks to a king he addresses the king in an appropriate manner, such as “Your Highness” or “His Majesty.” We should be addressing the King of kings in an even more reverential manner.
The answer to this is that we are Hashem’s children, and although He is our King, as His children we are entitled to speak to our Father in the first person. In fact, the King wants us to speak to Him this way, because this shows closeness and love.
In our times when we are so far away from Hashem many are doubtful if we still deserve to be called children of Hashem. Some are even unsure whether we are worthy of being considered servants of Hashem. Due to our estrangement from our Heavenly Father, we may be wondering if we are still entitled to address Hashem in the first person.
Moshe foresaw this and he therefore pleaded with Hashem that “at that time” – during the difficult days preceding the era of Moshiach, the Jewish people should still be able to “say: ‘Hashem the Al-mighty – You.” The Jewish people should always consider themselves children of Hashem and speak to Him the way a child speaks to his loving father.
In this week’s haftorah, the Navi says: “Nachamu, nachamu ami… ‘Be consoled, be consoled My nation,’ says your G-d. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem…” Why is the word nachamu (be consoled) repeated? What additional consolation is being given? And why does Hashem call us ami– my nation, specifically? Furthermore, how do we understand the use of the word “heart” when speaking about the city of Jerusalem? What exactly is the verse referring to?
The tzaddik Rebbe Boruch of Mezibuzh quotes the verse in Tehillim (39:4): “There is warmth in my heart within me, and my thoughts are burning like fire.” He would interpret these words as follows: “My heart is burning within me when I remind myself and think about the Bais Hamikdosh on which the heavenly fire burned!” His heart was aflame when thinking about the house of Hashem that we lost.
When the tzaddik the Ateres Tzvi passed away, one of the great rabbis who eulogized him quoted the statement of Rebbe Boruch and added: “Once upon a time we had a Bais Hamikdosh where a heavenly fire burned, and where we served Hashem. When that was taken from us, at least we still had our sages, our great Torah leaders, who were like a heavenly fire! But now that we lost this great tzaddik, our hearts are burning when we remind ourselves of his fiery avodah, his sublime service of Hashem!”
What is left for us to say? The generations become weaker and weaker and we stay with less and less. When the fires of our great tzaddikim were extinguished, the succeeding generations still had great men who were like sparks in the dark, like burning coals that are aflame from within. But in our times we do not even have these sparks. Of course, there are tzaddikim in our times as well because there are tzaddikim in every generation, but unfortunately, due to the great darkness we live in, we only have “gecholim omemos” – coals that are being extinguished. The coals we do have do not appear to be on fire. Our hearts are full of anguish as we remember how we used to have tzaddikim who burned like a heavenly fire, and after their deaths we still had tzaddikim who were like fiery sparks. But today the coals are darkened, the fires are hidden.
We cry out to Hashem: “When we lost the Bais Hamikdosh we at least had tzaddikim, but what do we have left today? What should we show our children when we want them to see an example of a tzaddik who burns for Hashem?” We are in a situation of omemos – similar to the word ami. The fire of serving Hashem seems to have been extinguished. We lament over the terrible suffering we endured, but that is not the only reason for our tears. Most of all we are crying over our spiritual estrangement; we are deeply anguished and distressed over our deplorable spiritual state. We are now in a situation so aptly described by the Navi (Eicha 1): “There is no one to console her from among all who love her… For those who could console me and revive my spirit were distanced from me.” Those who love the Jewish people, our holy tzaddikim, are no longer here to console us and revive our spirits.
Hashem sends His loving message of consolation: “Be consoled, be consoled ami – my nation, says Elokeichem - your G-d.” Even if you are in a situation of ami – the sparks have been extinguished and all you see is darkness, even if all you see is the attribute of Elokim, of divine retribution; even then I will console you. Hashem gives us a double consolation, one for our physical suffering and one for our spiritual estrangement.
“Speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” The hearts of the Jewish people are “burning within me.” Our hearts are as if on fire when we remember Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem itself also has a heart, so to speak. Jerusalem remembers the Bais Hamikdosh and her heart breaks when she sees her present situation. She too screams in pain: “My heart is burning within me when I remember the heavenly fires that burned in me!” Therefore, Hashem is consoling the heart of Jerusalem, telling her that there are still Jews around whose heart is pure – they are the heart of Jerusalem.
Hashem should help us we should finally merit to be doubly consoled, and every person should be helped with whatever he needs. We should all merit greeting Moshiach speedily in our days, Amein.