Life lessons from the Torah portion: Choose life

Grace in Judaism is the power of choosing G-d.

Moshe Kempinski,

Judaism Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR

Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25


In some cultures of this world the "Grace of G-d" is defined as G-d choosing us. Yet in Judaism the concept of Grace is defined as G-d giving us the power to choose Him. This is in fact one of the greatest gifts G-d has given mankind .

The power and the freedom to choose.

We read in the Torah portion of Eikev the following;

“And now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you, but to fear Hashem your G-d, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12)


The verb to “ask” pre-supposes the possibility of choice.

In the words of the sages " Everything is in the hand of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven" (Meg. 25a;".

That concept helps explain a verse that I found to be very impactful in the  Torah reading of VaEtchanan.

And Hashem heard the sound of your words when you spoke to me, and Hashem said to me, "I have heard the sound of the words of this people that they have spoken to you; they have done well in all that they have spoken.If only  ( Mee Itain) their hearts be like this, to fear Me and to keep all My commandments all the days, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!( Deuteronomy 5:25-26).

The words " If only( Mee Itain) their hearts be like this, " are not spoken by Moshe but rather by G–d Himself. The implications of those words are  dramatic, G-d is saying " If only  ( Mee Itain) …"!?!

Clearly. G-d created a world wherein the concept of free choice would be axiomatic in our existence, I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, [that] I have set before you, life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore chooselife, that both thou and Your seed may live: (Deuteronomy 30:19 ).

This verse reiterates that although the choice is free, every decision comes with implications. It is that determined decision to make the right choice that changes history.

But the choice needs to be made!

One wonders why that is so?

If G-d simply desired obedience the equation could have been made much clearer. "Follow My ways and you will see blessing, Go against My ways and you will experience and recognize immediate judgement." Is that not what is implied in the words: I have set before you, life and death, blessing and cursing ibid)?

Perhaps  the phenomenon of blessings and curses are not simply a matter of reward and punishment? Perhaps, on a deeper level, it is about the experiential result of “walking with G-d” or of “not listening” to Him. It is not about what one receives but rather the state of being one is in to be able to perceive reality in a far different way. Therefore blessings and curses are less about different realities but more about differing perceptions of that same reality.

Yet we still need to understand a whisper of the balance of free choice and purpose.

We read further in the Torah portion the following;

Beware that you do not forget Hashem, your G-d, by not keeping His commandments, His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command you this day,…14and your heart grows haughty, and you forget Hashem, your G-d, Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,  …16Who fed you with manna in the desert, which your forefathers did not know, in order to afflict you and in orderto test( Nasotcha) you, to 17and you will say to yourself, "My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me."18But you must remember Hashem your G-d, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth, in order to establish His covenant which He swore to your forefathers, as it is this day.( Deuteronomy 8:11-18)

The concept of free choice is in fact related to the concept of " to test  you (Nasotcha) ". Hashem does not need to test us so that He would know the inner thoughts of our hearts. He already has known them from the beginning of creation.

Will He Who chastises nations not reprove? [He is] the One Who teaches man knowledge.Hashem knows man's thoughts that they are vanity.( Psalm 94:10-11)

The test is not for G-d it is for us!

In a world fraught with ambiguity and confusion the ability to "choose" and be transformed by that choice is a gift from Hashem not a burden.G-d afforded the opportunity for free choice so that we could choose to be the ultimate of what we can be.

Therefore choose life, that both thou and Your seed may live:(Deuteronomy30:19 ).

To truly and completely "live"