Our Parasha adjures us, ‘to choose life’, as we read:(30:18-20)’
See - I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil, that which I command you today, to love Hashem, your G-d, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments..that you will live and you will multiply, and Hashem, your G-d, will bless you in the Land to which you come, to possess it. But if your heart will stray and you will not listen.. I tell you today that you will surely be lost..I call heaven and earth today to bear witness against you: I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring - to love Hashem, your G-d, to listen to His voice, and to cleave to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, to dwell upon the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers..to give them.’
Rashi comments:’you shall choose life’: I instruct you to choose the portion of life. It is like a man who says to his son: ‘Choose for yourself a fine portion of my estate’, and then directs him to the best portion, saying to him:’This is the portion you should choose for yourself’.
Rav Avraham Halevi Bakrat, comments on this Rashi:’It means to say: since I have given into your hands the choice, what need is it to further state:’and you shall choose life’. And if the intention was, that you should choose the way of life, why did it place in your hands, two opposite ways?
‘In the ways of the world, when one says to another: ‘there are two portions before you, choose the portion that you want for yourself, or which falls to your lot, take that portion’ , he does not then return, and say: ‘Take this portion because it finds favor in my eyes’ - as what point then is there to choice or fate.
‘This is the intended meaning:’Always I am placing the choice in your hands, and you shall make the choice - and not I; but, because of My love of you, I am giving you good advice, to choose the best portion, and directing you as to it, because I want you to choose it for your lot, and leave what is its opposite; therefore I say to you:’And you shall choose life’ - but you do that which is good in your eyes.’
Rav Meir Danon, the ‘Be’er Ba’Sadeh’, adds on this Rashi:’It should have said ‘choose the good, so that you shall live, you and your seed’, and not:’you shall choose life so that you live’, since ‘life’ is dependant on ‘good’, as the good defines ‘life’, so why does it say:’choose life’?
‘To answer this, he writes: ‘choose the good portion’, meaning: the portion on which ‘life’ depends, and it is ‘the good’; and it is called ‘good’, because through ‘the good’ we cleave to Hashem, and He is ‘your life and the length of your days.’
The Chatam Sofer, brings the perush of Rashi, that, as it were, Hashem ‘showed’ them the portion that they should choose, and comments:’This is obvious, that they should choose ‘life’ - are we discussing fools?!
‘However, our Sages, in Masechet Tamid, ask rhetorically: what should man do so that ‘he lives’? And they answer:He should ‘kill’ himself, and what should a man do, and ‘die’? he should live.’
‘We find that there are two kinds of ‘life’ and of ‘death), and our Sages give us the advice:’Choose the type of life, so that you should live, you and your generations, life that has continuation and cleavage to Hashem, by ‘killing’your earthly desires in this world, so that you and your children live thereafter.’
The Kli Yakar sweetens our subject, expounding:’If it is ‘life’ that you seek, look forwards to ‘good’: to do that which is good in Hashem’s eyes.
‘And if you then ask: why did it not state ‘good’ (before ‘life’)? since by doing good, you merit ‘life’, the answer is, that it comes to adjure us, not to seek to do good in the eyes of Hashem, so as to merit life, BUT for the purpose of doing good; not to ask for ‘physical’ life, but to ask for life so that he is able to serve Hashem, as it says:(Ps’ 34:13):’Who is the man who desires life loves days to see good’: who ‘loves days’ so that he will see in them the goodness of Hashem, in Torah and Mitzvot, as it says in our psukim:’To love Hashem, your G-d’..and to cleave to Him, for He is your life’- meaning: that is the תכלית: the purpose of your life, because it is only for this that Hashem gives you life.’
Rav Matityahu Solomon comments on our psukim:’The main difference between men and animals, is that man has the ability to choose, as we learn from our psukim. He is given the choice to go in the path of life, by choosing good; or, alas, the opposite, by choosing bad.
‘It is therefore incumbent on us to understand the meaning of this choice, and the obligations it imposes on us.
‘The Chovot haLevavot, teaches us the seriousness of making the right choice, by praying that Hashem guide him, when he was faced with having to make a choice.
‘The fact that this is the only situation in which he so prayed, indicates the seriousness of the matter, in his eyes.
‘He expounds: there are three aspects to the matter: First, the choice in the heart to do : second: the intention and agreement to carry it out; and, third, taking steps to actually carry out the intention.
‘This third element, however - whether he actually carries out his intention - is not in his hands, but wholly in the hands of Hashem.
‘We learn from this, that man’s power of choice is only as to his intentions - and, in this, as our Sages say:He who comes to purify, is assisted from Above’.
‘A further important point to note: whenever one chooses to do that which is ‘natural’ to him, he is not exercising the lofty gift of choice, with which he has been endowed, as animals also do that which is in their nature - and this is the one thing that differentiates man from animals.
‘The gift of choosing, means that, by its exercise, man can choose to do that which is against his nature - that is the Mitzvah of ‘and you shall choose life’; whoever does notchoose to overcome his yetzer, may have never actually made a a ‘full’ choice in his life - and, therefore, may never have performed the Mitzvah of ‘and you shall choose life’!
‘The main objective of our avodat Hashem, is ‘to come to purify’, and, according to the strength of one’s will to do so, he will be assisted from Above, to be drawn to the path of wisdom and righteousness, and to have a yearning towards them.’
A beautiful insight, from the Ralbag:’Do not serve Hashem for the sake of the physical blessings promised in these psukim for doing so; but serve Him so that you attain the pleasant and goodly spiritual life - as David Hamelech says:(Ps’ 112:1)’His Mitzvot did I greatly ‘desire’: not the rewards for performing them.’
A concluding thought: our psukim repeat ‘today’ several times; the Sages of the Zohar Hakadosh, teach that the word ‘today’, alludes to THE day: Rosh Hashannah.
As we read our Parasha approaching that Day of Judgement, it surely guides us as to the ‘life’ for which we should fervently plead, on that Day.
May He who ‘yearns for life’, grant us, in the coming year, ‘life’, to serve Him, and to cleave to Him, as ‘you who cleave to Him today, live’.
לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.