By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
I call today upon heaven and earth as witnesses for you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
In the double Torah reading this week Nitzavim and Vayelech (Devorim [Deuteronomy] 29:9 -31:30),
we find the above verse instructing the Jews to “choose life”. Do we really need the Torah to tell us to choose life? Which person of sound mind would choose death?
An important answer here is that the Torah is emphasizing here that one must make a conscious decision to live and not just vegetate. And I don’t mean to live it up by living life in the fast lane. To “choose life” means to choose to live a meaningful life, a life committed to values and a higher purpose. Did it make any difference at all in that I inhabited planet Earth for so many years? Will anyone really know the difference if I’m gone? Is my life productive, worthwhile?
It is told that when the fist Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, wanted to bless Reb Yekutiel Liepler with wealth, he declined the offer, saying that he was afraid it would distract him from more spiritual pursuits. When the Rebbe then offered to bless him with longevity, Reb Yekutiel stipulated that it should not be “peasant’s years, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, where one neither sees nor senses G‑dliness.”
Reb Yekutiel was rather fussy, it seems. The holy Rebbe is offering him an amazing blessing, and he is making conditions! Yes, he chose life, and he chose to live a life that would be purposeful and productive, and that really would make a tangible difference. He wasn’t interested in a long life if, essentially, it would amount to an empty life.
As we stand just before Rosh Hashanah, let us resolve to choose life. Let us live lives of Torah values and noble deeds. And may we all be blessed with a good, healthy, prosperous and sweet new year.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Yossy Goldman)