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Parshat Nitzavim:
Choosing Life Beyond Measure
Torah's Spiritual Insights on Life Death and Divine Connection

In the double Torah portion of "Nitzavim-Vayelech," right in the middle, there's an important message from the Torah.

It says, "I have set before you life and death, and you should choose life."

At first glance, this sentence might seem very obvious. It's saying that if we choose between life and death, we would choose life! Everyone naturally prefers life over death. But the Torah is hinting at something more profound.

The true essence of a person might consider choosing death. Many spiritual thinkers worldwide, people focused on matters of the spirit, suggest that it might be better for a person to leave this world and connect with the divine. There's a somewhat unhealthy tendency sometimes to see death as a mystical way to become entirely spiritual, and some people might be willing to pay the price of leaving their physical bodies – a kind of spiritual death.

But the Torah tells us something different. It says, "I have set before you life and death." While there might be thoughts, perhaps even noble ones, that suggest choosing death, the Torah's innovation is that we should encounter the divine through life. "And you should choose life." Why? Because through this choice, you will live, and your descendants will live on the Earth. It means you meet the Creator by living the reality of this world.

Another fundamental idea from these words is that a person can choose freely. You can choose between good and evil, between life and death. There's no external force apart from yourself that determines the path you take. This freedom of choice brings responsibility. If I choose, I can mess things up. But I can also build. This gives human life a moral significance, a person's desired meaning from this free choice when choosing life.

More Weekly Portions

Integrating Personal and Communal Well-Being through Torah
[Nasso]

Parshat Nasso addresses individual and family issues while emphasizing the collective unity through the Priestly Blessing. This blessing, structured in three levels, reflects a balance between material and spiritual needs: "May HaShem bless you and watch over you." for wealth, "May HaShem cause His countenance to shine to you" for spiritual illumination through Torah, and "May HaShem lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace" for the deep connection of Nefesh, Ruah, and Neshama. The Torah guides to integrate personal and communal well-being harmoniously.

Beyond the Count: Individual Worth and Collective Unity
[Bemidbar]

Parshat Bamidbar discusses the commandment to count the Israelites, focusing on those eligible for the army. This count underscores the tension between collective and individual identities. The Torah uses the expression "number of names," signifying the importance of both the collective and the individual. The Torah teaches that true unity blends these aspects, with the collective gaining meaning through each individual's uniqueness. This concept is reflected in the principle of "generalization and specification" in scriptural interpretation, with hidden meanings in the numbers, explored through the gematria.

Tears of Exile, Seeds of Hope: The Unbreakable Bond Between God and Israel
[Bechukotai]

Parashat Bechukotai discusses the covenant between God and Israel, emphasizing the importance of repentance for redemption. The Talmudic debate between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua delves into whether redemption is contingent on teshuva. Rashi's commentary interprets the ambiguous term "או" to support both views. This dual perspective highlights the Torah's open interpretation, showing that redemption can depend on human repentance or divine promise, reflecting a complex interplay of conditions in Judaism's understanding of historical progress.

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