Nitzavim: Choose to Live
This week, we will read Parashat Nitzavim. Nitzavim is the final Parasha before Rosh Hashanah and is Moshe’s final address to B’nai Yisrael. For Jews around the world, we will be ending the previous year and starting a new one. Throughout the month of Elul and into the new year, we reflect on the past year. How did we do? Where do we need to grow? What can we do better?
Rabbi Kruspedai said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, “On Rosh Hashanah three books are opened before the Holy One, Blessed be He: One book of wholly wicked people, and one book of wholly righteous people, and one book of middling people, whose good and bad deeds are equally balanced. “Wholly righteous people are immediately written and sealed for life; wholly wicked people are immediately written and sealed for death; and middling people are left with their judgment suspended from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, their fate remaining undecided” (Talmud-Rosh Hashanah 16b).
Rabbi Yitzchak Zweig says “The primary mission that each and every person is supposed to achieve on Rosh Hashanah is to coronate the Almighty as our king whose dominion spans all of creation; hence our pledge of fealty to Him. This is the day when we proclaim G-d to be our King and that our lives revolve around fulfilling His will, for us and all of creation”. We are immediately granted life because we are already connected to G-d. If we choose to live in an egocentric world where we don’t recognize G-d, where everything revolves around us, we are choosing a finite reality.
Moshe begins Parashat Nitzavim with the words “You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to waterdrawer to enter into the covenant of the LORD your God, which the LORD your God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; to the end that He may establish you this day as His people and be your God, as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here this day” (Devarim 29:9-14).
אַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ כֻּלְּכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם רָאשֵׁיכֶ֣ם שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֗ם זִקְנֵיכֶם֙ וְשֹׁ֣טְרֵיכֶ֔ם כֹּ֖ל אִ֥ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל
טַפְּכֶ֣ם נְשֵׁיכֶ֔ם וְגֵ֣רְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּקֶ֣רֶב מַחֲנֶ֑יךָ מֵחֹטֵ֣ב עֵצֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד שֹׁאֵ֥ב מֵימֶֽיךָ
לְעׇבְרְךָ֗ בִּבְרִ֛ית יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּבְאָלָת֑וֹ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כֹּרֵ֥ת עִמְּךָ֖ הַיּֽוֹם
לְמַ֣עַן הָקִֽים־אֹתְךָ֩ הַיּ֨וֹם ׀ ל֜וֹ לְעָ֗ם וְה֤וּא יִֽהְיֶה־לְּךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּר־לָ֑ךְ וְכַאֲשֶׁ֤ר נִשְׁבַּע֙ לַאֲבֹתֶ֔יךָ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹֽב
וְלֹ֥א אִתְּכֶ֖ם לְבַדְּכֶ֑ם אָנֹכִ֗י כֹּרֵת֙ אֶת־הַבְּרִ֣ית הַזֹּ֔את וְאֶת־הָאָלָ֖ה הַזֹּֽאת
כִּי֩ אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֨ר יֶשְׁנ֜וֹ פֹּ֗ה עִמָּ֙נוּ֙ עֹמֵ֣ד הַיּ֔וֹם לִפְנֵ֖י יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ וְאֵ֨ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֵינֶ֛נּוּ פֹּ֖ה עִמָּ֥נוּ הַיּֽוֹם
J. Aleksandr Wootton said “The great risk of living is that we might not survive it.” Moshe reminds B’nai Yisrael of their choice between life and good or death and evil (Devarim 30:15).
רְאֵ֨ה נָתַ֤תִּי לְפָנֶ֙יךָ֙ הַיּ֔וֹם אֶת־הַֽחַיִּ֖ים וְאֶת־הַטּ֑וֹב וְאֶת־הַמָּ֖וֶת וְאֶת־הָרָֽע
Freedom of choice has been granted to every man... This concept is a fundamental principle and a pillar of the Torah and its commandments (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 5:1). The Rebbe explains that there are three levels of choice: compelled choice, random choice, and quintessential choice. On the first and lowest level of choice, our choices are determined by external factors — the qualities of the chosen thing and the mental and emotional factors in our lives. A second, higher level of choice is one that is free of compulsion —there are no identifiable factors, conscious or otherwise, that influence our decision. On the third, highest level of choice there is only one option: the course that represents the uninhibited choice of one's deepest self.
We have the ability to choose life every day. Life is full of trials and tribulations and also full of Simcha (joy). Will we let the tough times get us down? When we choose life in the minutiae of our days, we are making the choice on all three levels.
May we merit to have a New Year filled with good health, parnassa, prosperity, abundance, and a deeper and uplifting relationship with G-d that will allow us to make wise choices and bring our full redemption.