The Torah provides a realistic view of the world. A view that claims that the blessings and the curses come hand-in-hand. “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you” – is what we read in the portion of the Torah we read this Shabbat. That is, we can expect throughout our lifetime to enjoy blessings and have to deal with the consequences of curses. Both are a result of our doings but not necessarily a godly plague that falls unexpectedly upon us. This can be concluded from the argument that we also read this week, “It is not in heaven,… Nor is it beyond the sea,… the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”
When we get involved in our day-to-day activities we find ourselves pulled in opposite directions, a maze full of conflicts. Turning left may be good in the short term but unclear in the farther away future, turning right does not seem promising now but may have better prospects for us in the future. It is also possible that it is all the other way around. It is difficult for us to predict if what we do shall bring upon us good and blessings, or God forbid, inflict upon us a disaster and damage. Seemingly it is not so near to us and not within the realm of what we can successfully do. Maybe it is completely or possibly at least semi-random.
I would like to suggest that this is not exactly what “the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it” really seeks to teach. Maybe it is all about the possibility we receive to make change, find another direction, come up with a new idea. Many time we start walking one way but continue in that same way only because we feel that we cannot change things anymore. In reality it is actually upon us to make the change, to take an initiative that will transform a reality that otherwise would be unfolding into an undesirable conclusion.
For us as Jews the way we are to walk is a passage of life. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendant.” Choosing life is not necessarily the easy way out nor is it a choice by default. We must make this choice despite the fact that it will bring us back to a situation of conflict, “all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you”. We will have to deal with both the blessing and the curse once we choose life. We will have to struggle with both because when we choose life we also become partners of other living human beings. We will not have any special power upon them and each may in their turn make decisions or choices that are death or life, blessing or curse, that is independent of us and our of our control. However, we shall certainly be impacted from whatever they decide to do.
On Sunday eve we shall be celebrating Rosh Hashana of the Jewish year 5780 and we will be praying together, again. We will come with resolutions we make for the next year, and regrets we have for the past year. It is important to understand that these resolutions and regrets are intertwined. They do not live separate of each other. It is not easy to move from one way of thinking to another, from one way of doing things to a completely different one. “Choose life” requests, actually begs us to take the time to purposefully take the time to think about it so that we can take resolutions that address our regrets and be meaningful to the way we will be living our lives in the future. Not to live our lives in the way we have lived them in the past but live them for the future and the opportunities it brings.
In the next few weeks we will continue to observe, sometime quite puzzled, the political trickery implemented by parties attempting to lead the nations in the next few years. They seem to fall again and again in the traps of the past referring to what was said or done then. Nevertheless, as a nation if we want to choose life we must find the ways by which the majority does not get entangled in the web of the extremists of the far ends. We have to make it clear to our leaders that our expectation is different and that we are choosing life. It is a choice that by definition requires us to leave past arguments and the fears of the stranger and from the different. It is a choice that each and every one of us can make, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova.
Reuven Marko, 27 September 2019, 28 Elul, 5779