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The portion starts with Moses saying, ‘and I prayed to God at that time’. The word used for prayer is not the usual one; its root is from the word, ‘chanan’, which means ‘grace’ in English, so it would translate as ‘I asked God for His grace at that time’.
The Rabbis make a striking point. Righteous people, they say, do not ask God for something based on their good deeds. They simply ask Him for a free gift.
One would think that if anyone is going to mention the good deeds they have done and ask God for something based on that, it would be good people. But the Rabbis are telling us that a good person realises something much deeper: that this whole world is nothing more than a free gift.
Can anyone reading this tell me what they did to ‘deserve’ this gorgeous world? What did you do for God? How did you help Him out? What did you do to merit arms, legs, eyes, a Godly soul, the love of those around you, your love for them, your beating heart, your breathing lungs, your thinking brain? What did you do to earn it? In what currency did you pay God?
This whole world, every precious moment of our lives is simply a free, generous, open-hearted gift from a loving Father in Heaven. There is nothing that He needs from us. There is nothing we have done for Him and nothing we ever could do for Him. We are simply the lucky recipients of His incredible love. And if we want more, He’s open to listening.
If my son comes to me and says, ‘dad, I cleaned my room to today, just like you asked, so could I have an ice cream?’ I would probably say, ‘well done for cleaning your room so that you don’t live like a pig. Now here’s an ice cream because I love you.’ We don’t want our kids to have to pay us for the goodness we share with them. It’s simply our pleasure to give.
God is no different. All He asks of us is for us. It doesn’t boost his self esteem when we pray to Him, nor does it increase His sales when we study His books. If we ignore Him, He’s not upset. We are the ones missing out on a relationship with the transcendental, not Him.
The righteous realise that we should ask not what we can do for God, but ask rather what God can do for us. So they ask for His love and nothing more. And if He’s done this much without our deserving it one iota, why wouldn’t He do just that little bit more?