This Shabbos we read Parshas Netzavim. In it Moses reminds the Children of Israel about the covenant with G-d, to shun idolatry, that they will transgress but then repent and G-d will redeem them, that the Torah will always be near to them, and the famous charge that between life and death they should choose life.
In Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses says, “I call to witness against you today the heavens and the earth, the life and the death I have placed before you, the blessing and the curse; and you will choose life in order that you will live, you and your offspring.
Nu (Yiddish for well), who would choose death? While someone in the depth of depression might, in reality the passage is not proposing a choice between physical life and death
A related question: why are the heavens and earth serving as witnesses? Rashi explains. In his commentary to the passage he says: “the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Israel, “Take a look at the heavens that I created to serve you. Might they have deviated from their character? . . Take a look at the earth that I created to serve you. Might it have deviated from its character?” The sun always does that which G-d created it to do: rises in the east and sets in the west. The earth yields plants according to the seeds that are sown. Steadfast though they are, they receive no reward and if they were to sin they would not receive punishment. How much more fortunate are we that Our Heavenly Parent blesses us for righteous behavior and uses His guiding hand to redirect us when we stray from the correct path.
So when Moses adjures us to choose life, he is urging us to opt to follow in G-d’s way, to do His mitzvahs so that we will lead purposeful and productive lives. In this final week before Rosh Hashanah let us ponder the choice we are making for the coming year, remembering that we will pray that G-d inscribes us for another year in the Book of Life. Physical life, to be sure, but more importantly a life dedicated to Torah and virtuous deeds.
Do you recall a time when you chose life? What were your options and how did you feel after choosing?