By Rav Shmuel Brazil
ואתחנן אל ה’ בעת ההיא לאמר. The mefarshim ask that the word לאמר which literally translates “to say” doesn’t really suit juxtaposed as a predecessor to Moshe’s request. What the passuk should have written is ואתחנן אל ה’ בעת ההיא אתה החילות להראות את עבדך I implored Hashem at that time “You have begun to show your servant”. The Kedushas Levi answers that we take for granted that one could daven and request at any time before the King of kings. Granted that one does not need a scheduled appointment for an audience nor some sort of connection and protekzia in order to voice his plea and concerns before the Almighty. He can go directly face to face to the One who could solve all his problems. However, one nevertheless must first recognize that this in itself is an incredible gift and privilege from Hashem and he demonstrates thus by asking permission from the King himself to be able to present his request. For without Hashem enabling him to request his desires he could not even open up his lips and mouth.
The Kedushas Levi explains this is what Moshe was saying with the extra word לאמר . I implored Hashem at that time to be able to say my request of אתה החילות להראות….. Moshe davened a tefilla that would enable him to daven and beseech Hashem to allow him to enter Eretz Yisrael. The Kedushas Levi adds that this same concept was instituted by the Anshei Kenesses Hagedolah at the commencement of every Shemoneh Esari by the prior reciting of the request אדנ’ שפתי תפתח That a Yid must first ask Hashem to allow him to daven and say praises before Him .before he actually begins the essential davening.
We should never forget, especially at the time of davening, that this act is a privilege, and that the Nachash \ Serpent in Gan Eden that merit was taken away from him. For the serpent was cursed that he will eat dust for his sustenance. Our Chazal say that where ever he goes the serpent finds his food so where is the curse? The Rebbe from Peshischa answers that this itself was the curse that he is not allowed to daven for his food because he always has it. Therefore, if one can daven for his needs then he must view this opportunity as a grand matana which portrays his intimacy with the Almighty. The request to daven is an acknowledgement of this recognition and understanding that without Hashem granting him the ability to daven he would not be able to do so.
To bring the point home I will relate the story of the man who pleaded before Hashem: I know that You are very very busy running the entire cosmos and here is little me standing right now trying to get your attention. But I also realize that by You a million light years is nothing but a second, a million galaxies is only like one star, a million dollars is like a mere penny, G-d, could you please in your great kindness spare me a million dollars? Immediately came the positive reply, “Why of course no problem just wait one second please”!
Hashem in his unfathomable kindness desires to give us His shefa not within His second but within our second. One has to feel that hakaras hatovah and gratitude for the ability to ask and expect such an answer from the Creator before he makes his request.
In a similar fashion our Chachamim instituted the lashon of the Modim Derabanan in the repetition of Shemoneh Esrai. Where we say modim thank you for keeping us alive ……and we end with thank you for being able to thank you. Just the mere fact that a human who is finite can address the Almighty and thank him is alone enough to thank Hashem. The sefarim say that a malach might have to wait 1000 or more years just to say one word kadosh and then he ceases to exist. Here we find a Yid who says נקדש את שמך בעולם כשם שמקדישים אותו בשמי מרום that he will sanctify Hashem’s name just as the angels do. Except that is where the comparison stops. There is one gigantic difference between the two. The Yid does not only say one word of kadosh and then disappear but three kadoshes in succession three times a day every day every year a whole life time. We must not take that for granted even to be able to say thank you to Hashem. We must thank Him for that as well.
Continuing with the same theme we can now understand a phrase we recite in Birkas Hamazon. The second beracha is the blessing of thanking Hashem for everything major in Torah and Yiddishkeit: Eretz yisrael yetzias mitzrayim bris milah Torah life grace kindness food and sustenance and constant parnassah. The next paragraph of this beracha begins with ועל הכל ה’ אלקינו אנחנו מודים לך ומברכים אותך. On everything we thank and bless You. What could we have left out from this exhaustive list that we feel imperative to make an inclusive declaration that on everything we thank You? I once saw an interpretation that explained that you read it like this – ועל הכל above every thing else נודה לך we thank you for ה’ אלקינו אנחנו מודים לך that we are privileged to thank you
וכשאתס מתפללים דעו לפני מי אתם עומדים [ברכות כח] This idea is hinted in the Chazal. The Sheim Mishmuel writes that the difference between dew and rain is that dew comes by itself from shamayim every morning and it doesn’t require so much our tefillos. However rain has to be aroused from below [Beraishis Rashi 2,5]. It is for this reason that we bentch טל on Pesach because the redemption of Yidden from Mitzrayim was likened to “tal” an arousal from above as the Navi says that at that period Yisrael were naked from mitzvos [Yechezkail 16,7].
So too we can liken tefillah to both tal and geshem. Tal is the preface to tefillah as we express in the paasuk אדנ’ שפתי תפתח whereupon we realize that the koach of tefillah comes from Hashem and it is one of the greatest privileges that man can have. Only then man has the permission to daven for his needs and requests which is parallel to the essential tefillah. In order to appreciate tefillah we have to first daven to be able to daven just as we found by Moshe Rabbeinu. This realization Rebbi Elazar taught his talmidim when he said to them דעו לפני מי אתם מתפללים One should know that he davens before the letters of מי . What are the letters before מי ? They are טל
The lesson learned is that we must realize that the ability to daven is a heavenly gift that enables one to address the Almighty Creator of the Universe – a finite creature speaking to the infinite, and ask from Him your mundane requests. .Yet even above that, to top it off, you would like it NOW and not in His second but yours. When you are surrounded by Tal you can now go on with your geshem!