Blog Post

Choices & Empowerment

Dear friends,

This weeks Torah portion begins with the words, “Behold I set before you today a blessing and a curse, the blessing if you will heed the commandments of the Lord” and the verse continues “and the course if you will not heed the commandments of the Lord Your G-D.”

A few chapters later in Deuteronomy 30, there are two additional versus with a similar theme. Verse 30:15 reads “Behold I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil.” Verse 30:19 reads “I have set before you life and death the blessing and the curse, you shall choose life, so that you and your offspring shall live.”

A “Normie” who reads these versus cannot understand why G-D finds the need to advise mankind that life vs death is the right choice, what person in their right mind would choose death over life the “Normie” wonders?. A recovering addict can totally understand the need for the “life over death” advice, but wonders why G-D found the need to create the possibility of evil and death entirely. Why the need to make life so difficult, with so many choices and pitfalls, wouldn’t it be so much simpler if the creator used a slightly modified blueprint for creation, one which did not include the possibility of evil, of a cursed existence, and death?.

The verse clearly states; I set before you, (intentionally), Blessing, good and Life, or evil, curse and death. It wasn’t a mistake, nor is it a technical glitch in the design of creation, the existence of evil and the ability of man to choose it over good, is by design, Divine design. The natural order which follows one who chooses evil, namely, a cursed existence and ultimately death, is also by Divine design. Understanding that the the existence of evil is by design, still leaves us with an unanswered question, but why?, why is it necessary for G-D to put mankind in a predicament, in which faltering and choosing badly are a very likely outcome. Why couldn’t G-D just configure us at birth with all the right intuitions and desires, so we can coast through life without incident, doing that which we are ordained by G-D to do, why all the drama?.

The answer is, that G-D wanted to create man, not robot. G-D already had (robots) better known as “angels,” prior to the creation of man. Angels don’t have inhibitions, desires or addictions, they predictably perform every mission they are given to the tee, so if no drama was the objective, then G-D could have stuck with angels. G-D didn’t stick with the angels, instead on the sixth and final day of creation, G-D created man, “in his own image.” Our sages have taught, that the meaning of “in his own image” is the shared quality of freewill, G-D has freewill, and we, who are created “in his image” have freewill as well.

We have a choice to make, we can choose to follow the path outlined by G-D, “living” a divinely inspired life, a life in which we can do, and experience “good” and merit “blessing” in all that we need and want. Freewill also means that we have the ability to fail, by choosing “evil” resulting in a “cursed existence,” and  the ultimate consequence, “death.”

There are a few additional lessons, we can glean from these versus. Firstly, G-D is making it clear in no uncertain terms, that choosing evil inevitably ends badly, always. If it was clear for all to see, what evil is, and how it ends, that would disqualify it as a legitimate choice. We therefore live in a world in which evil seems attractive, can feel pleasurable for a time, and one has the ability to live in denial and actually believe that what he or she is doing is really harmless. Secondly, G-D is making a commitment and a promise, that should we take his suggestion and choose wisely, we will live a life of blessing. Last but not least, when G-D requests of us to choose life, it is not merely a suggestion it is an empowerment. While G-D allows for failure to exist and for bad choices to be made, G-D is actively seeking to empower anyone who chooses Good over evil. G-D is speaking to those of us that are struggling to make the right choices and telling us, this is not insurmountable, the odds are not impossible, “choose life,” You can do it  I’ve empowered you.

Shabbat Dinner tonight at 8:00 PM looking forward to seeing you.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Meir Kessler