What’s the Intention?

That word
not common
sends me running for the book.

translate: I entreated, I pleaded
I implored G*d at that time,
this is Mose speaking
about the great frustration of his life
let me now cross and see the good land
that is on the other side of the Jordan. . .
[Deuteronomy 3:24-25]

What’s the intention
what’s his attitude
what’s the feeling in this word?

Is it a request?
Is it a please —
is it an entitlement
I deserve it.
I asked Rashi —

the word denotes an undeserved free gift
this is Rashi’s first comment
his second comment:
va-et-cha-nan is one of ten words signifying prayer
here Rashi is quoting the midrash [Deut. R. 2:1]
but I felt the sadness in this comment.

Mose is praying with humility
to enter the Land
please please please [cf. Apollo Theater]
it’s a prayer asking for an undeserved favor
because holy ones never ask with any other kind of attitude.
I want it but I’m not entitled. [Rashi on Deut. 3:23]

The teaching comes to us from Rabbi Yochanan
there are ten words for prayer:
shavah, zeakah, neakah
rinnah, pegiah, bitzur
keriah, nippul, pillul
and tahanunim.•

Of the ten expressions Mose might have used
Mose uses the last
the language of tachanunim
the language of humility
grace – an undeserved request
but a request (this is how the righteous make their asks)
no one has any claim on G*d.

Mose was thinking
— all the wonderful things he had done in his youth.
In those days I was King of the World
now I’m a beggar for my life.

The angels came and snatched Mose’s tears and words away
so that G*d wouldn’t know
G*d loved Mose like a mother
and always knew when something was wrong.

G*d came to Mose and said
It isn’t written that you should enter the Land.
It was decreed before I created the World
and yours is not to ask why. It just is.
It’s time for Joshua to take over. [Deut. 3:28]

jsg, usa

•See Exodus 2:23, Exodus 2:24, Jeremiah 7:16,
Psalm 18:7, Deuteronomy 9:18, Psalm 106:30,
and this verse, Deuteronomy 3:23.