Parashas Nitzavim

In this week’s parashah, Hashem announces that He has set before us life and good on the one hand, and death and bad on the other, and He tells us to choose life. The Maggid asks: Why does Hashem, when telling us what to choose, mention only life, and not life and good as He had initially? The Maggid offers a number of answers. We presented one of them in a previous parashah piece; here we present another.
Man is endowed, the Maggid notes, with a unique power that neither the lofty angels nor the lowly animals have: the power of choice. A person may think that he can choose whatever he pleases. Hashem therefore tells us that, while He presents us with a choice, in actuality we are compelled to choose the path He has chosen for us, and not whatever path we ourselves wish to choose. The Maggid brings out the idea with an analogy involving two types of visits. The first type is a person going to visit a close relative or friend whom he has not seen in many years. The host, out of his great joy over the visit, will do his utmost to honor and please his guest. He will ask: “What do you want to have for dinner? Anything you want, I’ll prepare for you.” The visitor will then naturally choose the finest delicacies and wine. The second type of visit is a person visiting an inn. The innkeeper will also ask: “What do you want to have for dinner?” But in this case the visitor cannot freely choose whatever he pleases, for he knows that whatever he chooses he will have to pay for.
It is likewise with us. Thus Shlomo HaMelech exhorts (Koheles 11:9): “Rejoice, young man, in your childhood, and let your heart cheer in the days of your youth; follow the paths of your heart and the sights of your eyes – but be aware that, for all these things, God shall call you to account.” Hashem’s exhortation to us in the parashah is along similar lines. He tells us that He sets before us life and death, life in the true sense being attachment to Torah and mitzvos, and death being detachment from Torah and mitzvos. If we opt for attachment to Torah and mitzvos, we will reap good; if we opt for detachment from Torah and mitzvos, we will reap bad. Hashem puts it in our hands to choose. But if we ponder the options carefully and thoughtfully, we will realize that, in truth, we have no choice – we are compelled to take the path of life, and cling to Torah and mitzvos.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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