„I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, so that you may live, you and your children.” – Deuteronomy 30:19
One of the most profound statements in the Torah is found near the beginning of this week’s parasha. Moses tells the Israelites that heaven and earth bear witness that Moses has given the Israelites a choice. The ultimate choice. They can choose life or they can choose death. Then, in dramatic fashion, the people are instructed to choose life. Choose life! This is the essence of Judaism. Life is a gift, and we have to use it well. The life we are given is a life of choices. And we are instructed to make the choices that are the choices of life. It is so simple, yet so profound. Choose life means choose to live a life engaged in the world, and living a life of Torah, Jewish ethics and the pursuit of justice. Because, it is not just life, it is our way of life that counts.
The verse of our last Torah reading before the High Holy Days is an example of the best of the Bible. Its dramatic overtones staking out the all-encompassing issues of the human experience. It is the highly visible signpost for our ways throughout the year and echoes the prayers of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur that asks us about our choices of the last year. Have we chosen life all the time? Have we put ourselves in danger? Physically – spiritually? What is with others? Have we helped others on their way? How many stumbling blocks have we put in front of others, and how many have we put away? If we stand in front of the Great Judge, can we argue that our choices and deeds were the right ones? This self-analysis over the next 10 days will hopefully inspire us to refine our goals where needed and to make the right choices in the coming year.
Chayim joins me in wishing you and your families a blessed New Year filled with love, peace, joy, health, prosperity and Yiddishkeit
May you be inscribed and sealed for a good new year
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
The Torah Study Breakfast Shiur with Rabbi Schell continues on Shabbat, 19 September at 08.45.
Podcast of Rabbi Schell’s weekly Radio Sermons on Radio Today, follow http://betdavid.podomatic.com/.
Torah Reading for Shabbat Nitzavim and Rosh HaShanah
Shabbat Nitzavim: Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63:09
1st day of Rosh HaShanah: Genesis 22.1-24 – Maftir Numeri 29.1-6
Haftarah: Jeremiah 31.1
2nd day of Rosh HaShanah: Genesis 21.1-21 – Maftir Numeri 29.1-6
Haftarah: Samuel 1