Parshas Nitzavim-Vayelech: The Power to Choose

We all have the freedom to choose how to act. We can choose to do good things or not good things. We can say things to make others smile or to make them cry. We can use our hands to hit or to hug. The choice is up to us.

This is why G-d doesn’t punish and reward us straightaway for the things we do. If He did, we would in effect have no choice. Imagine, if you were immediately struck down with lightening for breaking Shabbat, would you break it? Of course not! G-d wants us to choose to do the things He asks.

But isn’t He asking a bit much of us? After all, 613 commandments sure sounds like a lot. And some of them, like keeping Shabbat, are pretty demanding. But remember – nobody has to keep all of them because not all of them apply to us. Some mitzvot apply only to kings or priests. Some apply only to women and some only to men. There is no person on the planet to whom all of them apply. So perhaps keeping the Torah is not as hard as it seems.

The fact is that G-d created us. He knows what we are capable of. He knows our limitations. There is no mitzvah for us to fly around everywhere because we have no wings. On the other hand, there is a mitzvah not to speak gossip because we have mouths and we can choose what to use them for, even if it is hard!

In this week’s parsha, Moses reminds us that the Torah “is not beyond you nor is it remote from you. It is not in heaven… It is not across the sea…. Rather, it is very close to you, in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it.”

This coming week, as we sit in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah this is something we must keep in mind. We can keep the mitzvot, if only we try. We have to stop thinking that things are too big or too much. It is like climbing Mt. Everest. It seems very tall, but if we just take one step at a time, we will find it is far from impossible.

Shabbat Shalom!

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