Good (erev) Shabbos to everyone!
I dedicate this parsha-post as a Refuah Sheleimah for Nasanel ben Chaya Rochel, a baby who just underwent open heart surgery.  In your Shabbos tefillos, please pray for him, for a long, healthy, and fulfilling life, that he always be a source of nachas to his family, and that he merits to share his gifts and light with the world.


In this week’s double sidra of Nitzavim-Vayelech, we receive one of the most famous commandments, a pertinent message for every human being, for all time.

“R’ay nasati l’fanecha hayom et-hachayim v’et-hatov v’et-hamavet v’et-hara. —  See, I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil.”  {Devarim 30:15}

Hashem goes on to explain the consequences of the two paths, either one which the nation was free to choose to pursue:

“…L’ahavah et-Hashem Elokecha lalechet bid’rachav v’lishmor mitzvotav v’chukotav u’mishpatav v’chayita v’ravita u’vayrach’cha Hashem Elokecha ba’aretz asher-atah va-shama l’rishtah.  V’im yifneh l’vavcha v’lo tishma v’nidachta v’hishtachavita laylokim  acheirim v’avadatam, Higad’ti lachem hayom ki avod tovaydun lo-ta’arichun yamim al-ha’adama asher atah oveir et-haYardein lavo shama l’rishtah.– …To love Hashem your G-d, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments , His decrees, and His ordinances; then you will live and you will multiply, and Hashem your G-d will bless you in the land to which you come, to possess it.  But if your heart will stray and you will not listen, and you are led astray, and you prostrate yourself to gods of others and serve them, I tell you today that you will surely be lost; you will not lengthen your days upon the Land that you cross the Jordan to come there, to possess it.”   {Devarim 30:16-18}

However, (in verse 19) Hashem doesn’t suggest to us, but exhorts us, pleads with us, urges us:  “U’VACHARTA BACHAYIM – AND YOU SHALL CHOOSE LIFE!

What does this perplexing request come to teach us?  Of course we choose life!  Well…  we didn’t necessarily choose to be born of our own accord, as one Sage points out in Pirkei Avos– but we all want to live!  What person in their right mind seeks death, evil, and curse for their lot?

To probe these words of Hashem, let’s ask ourselves:  What is life?  What is the point and purpose of it?  What is the actual experience we call by this name?  What does it truly mean “to live”?

To quote Eleanor H. Porter’s sweet book “Pollyanna”, the young orphan Pollyanna, after receiving her seemingly long and dry list of school-lessons from her strict aunt, exclaims: “But Aunt Polly… you haven’t left me any time for living!”  After expressing her need to explore her surroundings, to become acquainted with the various people in her new town, and to understand, grow, and learn naturally, she remarks “Just breathing isn’t living.”

And she’s right.  There is an infinitely greater opportunity and purpose to life, than simply breathing.

People were given a higher level of soul, and an extra portion of intellect, raising us over the rest of the natural world.  These gifts were intended by G-d to fuel and equip us to carry out a unique purpose:  On a personal level, to conquer our own physical desires, to make every limb and part of our body a servant of our mind and soul.  But this inner battle with our own selves is not the true and complete fulfillment of a person.  When we master ourselves, so to speak, with this higher consciousness of our minds and souls in control, we can further touch and connect others on a worldwide level:  To bring all people and all creations to meet their own elevated purposes, beyond their natural state and instinct, and to share with the world the greatest truth:  We’re all created by one G-d, Hashem, and He’s present everywhere, all the time, and He needs us to bring Him out of His ‘hiding places’ in this world.  In creating humankind, Hashem began with just one person, Adam haRishon (Rosh Hashana, by the way, is the anniversary of the 6th Day of Creation, and the birthday of people!), to show us that it is in each of our hands individually, to make a difference in the world, for good or for ‘bad’ (G-d forbid), and everything we do, no matter how seemingly small, creates profound change for the entire world.

Every experience we go through, whether it be smooth and pleasant, or rough and difficult, is a test to see how we respond to each situation.  If we do not receive challenge well, it is our obligation to refine our responses to suffering, acknowledging that “this too, is from G-d, but how can I practically work through this?  How am I going to approach this, and through what lenses will I perceive it?”  This is a vital area to pay attention to.  Life is replete with tests, and one must maneuver through them with awareness of what is going on, and in what direction you want to head from here.  This is life– both the light and the dark.

There are so many sensations and emotions every person needs to experience, and there are some that we seek out or cultivate over time.  Love, understanding, discipline, watchfulness, generosity, gratitude, learning, motivation, partnership…  These, too, form the structure of life.


Simply “breathing”, slipping through your time of existence, without any struggle or striving to achieve your purpose and goals, without consciousness of what G-d given potential you have to do incredible things, without awareness of the others that make up your world and awareness of a higher Power above…  you are not living, but you are spiritually dead.

If a person’s life is devoid of devotion and purpose, and love and awareness that the verses of our discussion allude to, then that is the curse in and of itself that Hashem warns us about.

We don’t actually ever want to waste time.  We are always working towards some sort of goal.  Our physical life is measured in time, which is also a creation of Hashem, but we know the soul is eternal, since this is not a creation of G-d, but in fact part of Himself.  Verse 19 declares: “Choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring.”  Let’s make sure not to expend out precious time and energy on futile and empty pursuits and wants.  Let’s make sure to pass the spice for life and commitment to our mission onto our children, a forever-burning torch.

Hashem wants for us so desperately to make the right choice.  He wants us to be able to rejoice in the profound satisfaction of fulfillment and doing our best.  He seeks for us to discover, or rather uncover, our connection with Him, and our inner selves.  He wants us to develop a stronger, closer bond with Him in every situation in life.  He wishes for us to discover our strengths and gifts through various life-experiences.  Like a father, He hopes we will grow in understanding of what is best for us, and what our calling is, but He is always there for us to turn to when we’re in need of some guidance.


You were given the gift and opportunity of life.  Make the most of it.  Hashem is begging you.

Kesivah ve’Chasimah Tovah– may you be given a good writing and sealing in the Book of Life; and Shanah Tovah U’metukah– a good and sweet year, healthy, joyous, fulfilling, and filled with only revealed blessings and good.

—  The Messenger Bird