Our parsha opens up with Moshe’s prayer (Devarim 3:23), “Vaeschanan el Hashem, I beseeched Hashem.” Yalkut Reuveni brings down from Midrash Pliah: “The angels pray 515 prayers each day, which is the numerical value of ‘ישרה, straight.’ This is where Moshe learned to put in 515 prayers to be able to get into Eretz Yisrael. The word ואתחנן, I prayed has the numerical value of 515.”
What is the meaning of this Midrash?
Two pieces of information must be added to begin to understand this. The verse in Yechezkal (1:7) describes the angels as, “Their feet are straight (ישרה)…” Thus, the word yisharah, connotes the angels. The Midrash is also hinting to the fact that Moshe was about to complete his 515th prayer when Hashem told him to stop at 514. If you complete the next prayer I will be forced to allow you to enter the land, but this is not what is best for you.
Question 1: Why didn’t Moshe just push through and say one more prayer?
Question 2: Can we just daven for something 515 times and thus force Hashem to give us what we want?
The purpose of prayer is for us to fully subjugate ourselves to Hashem’s will. We turn to Hashem with our impassioned supplications, and each time we pray we become more and more aware of Hashem’s unlimited power and desire to only grand us what is best and good for us in life.
Rabbeinu Bechaya explains that the reason that we put our feet together during Shemoneh Esrei is to be like the angels. The reason that the angels have their feet together is to show that they are totally subjugated to Hashem’s will and will not move anywhere without His guidance. That is what we are emulating and tapping into when we put our feet together. The word “yishara” thus hints to the fact that their feet are placed together and that they are totally yashar, in line with, subjucated to Hashem. This is the essesnse of ‘Vaeschanan, supplication.’ That is the most powerful prayer.
When Moshe prayed, it was not about pushing for his agenda, rather, it was begging Hashem to bring out that which is best for Moshe and for the Jews. As Moshe grew closer and closer to Hashem, as he became more and more yashar, in line with Hashem, and a more upright person, he learned from Hashem, that this request was not best for Moshe. Moshe was not destined to enter the Land. That was Hashem’s will. Thus, because Moshe’s request was fully l’shem shamayim, Moshe did not pursue the final 515th prayer.
We too cannot blitz Hashem with prayer in an effort to break down the gates of Heaven. We certainly can beg, plead and supplicate, but the 515th prayer is not just about saying something 515 times and then magically getting the request granted. It is about prayingwith such a deep intensity that you connect with the Will of Hashem and know that only He Alone decides what is best for you. Thus, if you prayed 515 times and haven’t yet internalized Hashem’s power and ultimate guidance, then by definition, you have not prayed at all!
Best For You
Migaleh Amukos adds that Hashem replied, “al tosef daber ali (אלי), don’t continue to pray.” Ali stands for ‘alef: edom (red- din), lamed: lavan (white – chessed) and yud: yarok (green – rachamim mixture). These three colors represent the three hanhagos of strictness, kindness and blended mercy-judgement. Hashem was thus saying, Moshe, you are not to enter Eretz Yisrael, that is not what is best for you. You can try to evoke any of my attributes but this request is not best for you and thus it will not be granted.
Hashem wants our prayers and often when we pray, we change and this allows Hashem to grant us great things. But ultimately, whether or not we get what we want, we know in our hearts that everything that Hashem does is for the best.