They are among the most stirring words in the Torah. In vermilion
verse, Moses calls upon heaven and earth to bear witness to the poetic
image he is about to conjure of Hashem’s awesome majesty and His
special relationship with the Jewish people. The Song of Moses, which
we read in this week’s portion, is a stunning paean characterized by
sharp rebuke but also glorious hope.
Towards the beginning of his Song, Moses inserts an enigmatic cue
for the Jewish people. “As I call out the Name of Hashem, declare the
greatness of our Lord!” These are very puzzling lines. Since the entire
Song is a declaration of Hashem’s greatness, what exactly was he
asking the people to contribute? Furthermore, why does Moses calling
out Hashem’s Name trigger the Jewish declaration of Hashem’s
Let look for a moment into the first portion of the Torah, which we
will be reading in just a few weeks. After the serpent subverts Adam and
Eve and causes then to be expelled from the Garden of Eden, Hashem
curses him, “And you shall eat dust all the days of your life.”
The commentators wonder: How severe can this curse be if it
assures the serpent of a plentiful supply of food at all times? This
exactly is the essence of the curse. the commentators explain. Man,
who must struggle for his sustenance, is always calling out to the
Creator for help and support, and as a result, man’s very needs provide
him with the transcendent rewards of a relationship with Him. The
serpent, however, was given everything he would ever need and cast
aside, without any prospect of enjoying a spiritual relationship with
This is what Moses was saying to the Jewish people. When they
hear him call out the Name of Hashem, when they realize how
immensely privileged they are in that they can always call out to
Hashem, that they can raise themselves up spiritually by connecting
with Him, then they should declare Hashem’s greatness. For surely this
precious gift, the opportunity for mortal man to bond with the divine, is
one of the greatest kindnesses that He has ever bestowed upon his
A king was very displeased with the behavior of one of his sons.
Despite being warned many times, the young prince persisted in his
profligate ways, and presently, the king could no longer tolerate the
situation. With a heavy heart, he banished the prince to a distant
province and decreed that he live the rest of his life as a commoner,
without any of the privileges of royalty.
On the day the prince was to leave the palace, the king came into
his room and handed him a tiny sealed box.
“Take this, my son,” he said. “Although you are banished from the
palace, this box may help you in times of most dire need.”
Years passed. The prince managed to survive without the
protective cocoon of privilege, but not with exceedingly great difficulty.
In the hardest of times, however, he knew in the back of his mind that
when all else failed he could break open the sealed box and use the
riches it contained.
One time, he was in such a desperate situation that he had no
choice but to open the box. He fully expected to find it filled with
diamonds, but to his surprise, it contained a piece of paper folded over
With trembling hands, he unfolded the paper and read it. Then he
burst into tears. It was a letter from the king allowing the banished
prince to enter the palace and present any request directly to the king.
This letter, the prince realized, was a more precious gift than a boxful of
the finest jewels.
In our own lives, when we stand before Hashem and pour out our
hearts in prayer, it is important for us to realize that the very act of
prayer is its own reward, that the relationship we form with Hashem
through intense spiritual communication is far more important than
many of the things for which we pray. Hopefully, during this season of
hope and prayer, Hashem will grant us all long life, health, prosperity
and joy. But it important to remember than even before all these
blessings are delivered to our doorsteps, we have already been
immeasurably enriched through the very act of prayer.