SOMETHING FOR NOTHING

July 29th, 2020

At the beginning of Parshat Va’etchanan Moses recalls how he prayed to God to allow him entry into the Promised Land, although — sadly — to no avail. Rashi points out that the word Moses uses to describe his prayers — va’etchanan — has its root in the Hebrew word chinam — ‘free’, indicating that rather than relying on his merits and their due as the reason for God to heed his request, Moses asked for an ex gratia gift from God, in Hebrew referred to as ‘matnat chinam’. 

Rabbi Dunner explores the whole idea of matnat chinam, both with reference to Moses, and in general terms, and shares an insightful piece from the Shem Mishmuel, as well as a delightful story about one of Sir Moses Montefiore’s many visits to the Holy Land, to illustrate how prayer and God’s munificence are intricately bound up with each other, but not necessarily in the way one might expect.

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