Get a Life: Nitzavim 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: To what extent does our society value human life? How does that priority manifest itself in our politics? In our lifestyles? In our personal choices?

As Moses’s last words to the Israelites reach their conclusion, it becomes clear that the choices the Israelites make will define their very existence:

The Pitch: “See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity.” – Deuteronomy 30:15

Swing #1: “In Chapter 11 … we are told only of a ‘blessing and a curse’. There is no mention of ‘life and good,’ or ‘death and evil.’ The reason for their being mentioned in this chapter and verse is that this section deals with the commandments of repentance. This commandment imposes a great responsibility on man, much greater than the commandments not to sin, for it affords man a way to repent. Failure to avail oneself of this opportunity is a greater sin than even the transgression of which one has been guilty. Hence, if the transgression alone carries a ‘curse’, then failure to repent of it would mean death itself. Therefore, ‘choose life’.” – Meshekh Hakhmah

Swing #2: “Look, it’s simple people! It’s a choice between ‘love and prosperity’ and ‘death and adversity’. All you need is ‘to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and keep His commandments, His laws, and his rules …’ That’s it. That’s all we have to do. I can imagine the Israelites muttering: Now he tells us! Why couldn’t he have said this before all those rules about lepers?” – David Plotz, Good Book 

Swing #3: “In reality, the undoubted truth of the matter is that man has full sway over all his actions. If he wishes to do a thing, he does it; if he does not wish to do it, he need not, without any external compulsion controlling him.” – Moses Maimonides, Eight Chapters

Late-Inning Questions: To what extent do you feel a sense of urgency when you make choices? How many of your choices are “life-altering”? What are the benefits of treating some of our choices that way? What are the downsides?

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of valuing life, I hope that Major League stadiums will install netting from foul pole to foul pole starting next season. Too many fans have been struck by foul balls, and the risk of serious injury is real.

Shabbat Shalom, and very soon, L’Shanah Tovah!