title.jpg (23972 bytes) subscribe

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues


I implored Hashem at that time, saying. “Hashem, my G-d, you have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, for what power is there in the heaven or on the earth that can perform according to Your deeds and according to Your mighty acts? Let me now cross and see the good Land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.” But Hashem became angry with me because of you, and He did not listen to me. Hashem said to me, “It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter” (Devarim 3:23-26).

The numerical value (gematria) of the Hebrew word for “I implored,” va’eschanan, is 515. The Midrash says that Moshe prayed 515 prayers, begging to be allowed to enter the Land of Israel, but Hashem told him not to persist any further.

The Gemara says in Sotah (14a): “Rabbi Simla’i expounded, ‘Why did Moshe Rabbeinu desire to go to Eretz Yisrael? Did he then want to eat of her fruits or become satiated from her goodness? But this is what Moshe said, “There are many mitzvahs that the Israelites were commanded which can only be fulfilled in the Land of Israel. I will enter there in order to be able to fulfill them all.” The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him, “All you want is to receive reward. I will consider it as if you had fulfilled them.”’”

This Gemara seems very strange indeed. How can Rabbi Simla’i say that Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to fulfill mitzvahs in order to receive reward? The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (1:3) declares, “Do not be like servants who serve their master in order to receive reward.” Similarly, the Ramban (Vayikra 18:14) writes that those who serve Hashem in order to receive reward in the world-to-come are considered among those who serve Him out of fear, which is not the highest level of service. Surely Moshe Rabbeinu served Hashem on the highest level.

I was told a fantastic answer to this question by the great tzaddik, Reb Chaim Brim ztvk”l, who passed away just recently (I don’t remember in whose name he said it).

The Ramchal says that the reason Hashem created the world is because He wanted to do good to those whom He would create.

Every son looks forward to receiving presents from his father, especially around holiday time. But good parents enjoy giving their children gifts even more than their kids enjoy receiving them. A really good son, however, takes pleasure in accepting presents from his father, not only because he wants them, but, even more so, because he enjoys giving his father the satisfaction of having nachas from his children.

Similarly, although the average person who serves Hashem for reward is considered non-praiseworthy, since he has his own interests in mind; the great tzaddik who loves Hashem totally, and whose only interest is to cause Him pleasure and contentment from His children; he is on a different level. He may serve Hashem with the intention of receiving reward, since his only motivation is to cause Hashem nachas.

This is what Rabbi Simla’I said. Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to enter Eretz Yisroel so that he could do more and more mitzvahs, in order to receive more and more reward. But his sole intention was to give Hashem the optimum amount of pleasure possible; the pleasure of bestowing good upon His creations, which is the purpose that He created them in the first place. Therefore, Hashem told him that although He would not allow him to enter the Holy Land, nevertheless, He would grant him his wish and consider it as if he had fulfilled even those mitzvahs; thus providing him the opportunity to get more reward and cause Hashem more satisfaction from him.

Obviously, we are all very far from this exalted level of service of Hashem. But in Judaism things are not always either black or white. There are many grey areas too. In other words, although we are far from Moshe’s level, nevertheless, we should aspire to emulate him somewhat by at least thinking not only of ourselves but also of Hashem. When we do a mitzvah, we should think for a moment that our intention, at least in part, is to cause nachas to our Wonderful Father in Heaven, Who certainly deserves to have pleasure from us. Likewise, when we are tempted to sin, G-d forbid, we should withhold from giving in to our desires not only because we are afraid of being punished, but also because it would upset Hashem, Who is very dear to us.

If we practice having these proper thoughts, we will be surprised at how much it will improve our relationship with our Creator. Little by little, we will get closer to the level of the tzaddikim who serve Him with total dedication.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel