Devarim: Consolation Prize

Prayer Always Helps

During Moses’ last address to the stiff-necked Israelites, he mentions the Sin of the Spies (Num. 13:1-33).  After receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, Moses led the people to the border of the Promised Land and then sent twelve spies to scope it out. The spies came back with a negative report about the land and its inhabitants and the Israelites panicked, complaining that they would have been better off staying in Egypt. God then decreed that they would wander in the wilderness until the generation of former slaves died out. 

When Moses recounts this shameful episode, he mentions that when they realized their colossal mistake, the people “wept before the Lord, but the Lord would not hear your voice, nor would he listen to you.” (Deut. 1:45) In the next line, Moses says, “And you dwelled in Kadesh many days…” (Deut. 1:46.)

The Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin) said that this shows that even when God does not listen to our prayers and does not grant our request, prayer still helps. The Jews’ prayerful weeping did not repeal the decree that they would stay in the wilderness for forty years, but it did lead to a benefit. God allowed them to stay in Kadesh for 19 years, a respite from their wanderings. This is an important lesson to all of us. Even when we don’t get what we pray for, we always get something!

Image: Petra, considered by some to be Kadesh

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