“Choose life,” the Torah tells us (Deuteronomy 30:19).
It’s a strange command. Who would choose anything other than life?
But choosing life means more than opting not to die. Life isn’t a passive exercise.
A prominent Lubavitcher chassid once said, “Some people are alive only because a bus hasn’t run over them yet.” In other words, they go through the motions. They wake up, go to work, come home, eat supper, go to bed, and then live the next day exactly as they did the previous one. They exert minimal effort, strive for nothing, and live, over all, unreflective mediocre lives.
That’s not the kind of life Hashem commands us to choose. “[N]ot without our serious efforts, not without thought and will, not just by chance is ‘life’ won. You must choose life if you wish to ‘live,’” writes Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch.
All of us on this side of the grave are alive by default. Our hearts are beating; hence, we’re alive. But the kind of “living” the Torah offers us is so much grander. And because G-d loves us, He instructs us to choose it.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) – head of the Jewish community in Frankfurt, Germany for over 35 years – was a prolific writer whose ideas, passion, and brilliance helped save German Jewry from the onslaught of modernity.
Elliot Resnick, PhD, is the host of “The Elliot Resnick Show” and the editor of an upcoming work on etymological explanations in Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch’s commentary on Chumash.