Haazinu – Hashem’s Right to Expect Us to Pray

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In this week’s Torah portion of Haazinu we find The Song of Moshe. In it, Moshe says, “The Rock! Perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a G-D of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He” (Devarim 32:4). The Medrish Tanchuma expounds on this pasuk saying, “He is righteous who does righteousness with His sons. When a person is poor and he has good deeds, he prays before Him and says, ‘Like Your Great Name, do for me righteousness.’ The Holy One Blessed Be He will open His treasure house and give to him. This is judgement for He did righteousness. This is what King David meant when he said, ‘What is all this good that You hid for the ones who fear You…’ (Tehillim 31:20). David said before Hashem, ‘I know you have treasure houses of lots of charity, if you don’t give it out to me and my friends, what is all Your good?”

The Etz Yosef says that the medrish was bothered why the pasuk says “All his ways are judgement etc. He is righteous and straightforward.” Judgement is strict judgement, but righteousness and straightforwardness are above and beyond the letter of the law? This is what we find when a person has good deeds, and he is poor, he asks Hashem to give him charitably. So, Hashem gives him. This is the letter of the law and charity, (or righteousness,) at the same time. Fulfillment of the strict letter of the law because this person has good deeds, and righteousness because Hashem doesn’t owe anything to anyone… (Click hee for Hebrew text.)

The Etz Yosef says there is no contradiction between strict judgement and righteousness (or kindness) because the poor person earned his right to be supported by Hashem because of his good deeds, but Hashem is not obligated to give him because He is tied down to no one. The Beur Ha’amarim adds that even at a time of strict judgement, where Hashem decides a person should be poor or suffering in some other way, it is for the benefit of the person, for that is what Hashem decreed with His wisdom. But even then, Hashem is kind and acts above and beyond the letter of the law, and so He sends these miseries in a fashion that a person can handle them. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

It is understandable that Hashem, in his strict judgement, felt a person needed to go through some trials and tribulations as an atonement for a wrong that he did. It is even considered a benevolence of Hashem that he gave this person some form of suffering, whether it is poverty, an illness, or anything else, in a fashion that he would be able to potentially withstand. But why is it so kind and benevolent to expect the one in need to pray, ask, or even beg for what he needs? Imagine a benefactor, even if it is a king, who demands a request to be helped. People will be turned off or maybe even too embarrassed to go to him. What kind of benevolent person is that?

Perforce, there must be a difference between man and Hashem. Man is by definition imperfect and will have needs or wants, if not now then at some point, whether it is for attention, payment, or anything thing else; he or she will actually need or want. So it’s a chutzpah to demand others to ask and beg if you might need it yourself someday. On the other hand, “Hashem reigned and has donned grandeur…” (Tehillim 93:1). Hashem is an omnipotent, all knowing, all powerful, perfect entity which needs nothing, by definition. His expectations for us to ask for our needs and wants must be for our own wellbeing in order so that we will gain levels of trust and recognition of Him in order to be closer to Him which is the ultimate goal as it says in the beginning of Mesillas Yesharim, “Man was created for the sole purpose of rejoicing in Hashem.”

Prayer is one of the ways to grow closer to Hashem which is why Hashem expects us to do, so, for our own benefit.

Gmar chasima tova & good Shabbos,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder