Parsha Nitzavim

3 weeks ago Orli Richman 0

“Atem Nitzavim hayom coolchem leefney hashem elocechem” You are standing here today before the lord your G-d. Just like the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashanah, in parsha Nitzavim the entire Jewish nation is standing before G-d, men, women and children. With every soul before him, G-d directly tells us about life and death and in the process commands us to choose life. ‘U Bacharta Be’Chayim” But what does it mean to choose life? Don’t we as living humans do this instinctively? Why is it a commandment if it is fundamental? Well not only must we choose life but we must choose the right path in life. G-d continues on not only to tell us about life and death, but also about good and evil. Specifically, G-d pairs life and good, and death and evil. He goes on to say that you will only live if you follow the Torah’s precepts and that if you deviate from those, you will “surely perish.” 

However, even without dealing with the difficulties of that passage mentioned in the Talmud, we are still faced with a question. The Torah tells us that choosing sin is choosing death, but given that we accept that comment, why tell us to choose life? Shouldn’t our simple sense of self-preservation motivate us enough without being told by G-d?

To answer this question we need to look to an earlier context of the commandment to choose life. First the Torah poetically emphasizes how accessible the Torah is to us “It is not in the Heavens, it is not across the sea…” Then the Torah quickly moves on to the devastating consequences of the wrong choices, implying a connection between the study of Torah and the life and death choices we need to make. In the beginning of Bechukosai when the verse states “Im Bechukosai Telechu,” “if you follow My statutes” implying that it refers to the mitzvot that we perform. However, Rashi (based on a medrash) writes “ you are expending effort to study Torah” implying that the inverse “Im Bechukosai timasu” “if you despise My statutes” is when we don’t focus on our Torah study. The Talmud in Eruvin brings in the drash of Rava that the statement of “it is not in heavens or beyond the sea” is denouncing those who don’t appreciate the intellectual depth of the Torah but rather approach Torah study with intellectual arrogance or study it superficially. It is this lack of appreciation for the study of Torah, and the lack of focus and respect that then leads one to discard Torah study and take on evils that accompany this discardment.

In conclusion the commandment of choosing life is not saying choosing sin is choosing death, but rather that we must choose to dedicate ourselves to the study Torah to develop in ourselves the core of true faith, observance and knowledge