Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Nitzavim 5775

Having been given the options–blessing or curse–in last week’sparshah, this week in Parshat Nitzavim, Israel is told that they really don’t have a choice. Yes, we have free will, but any rational person capable of exercising free choice will choose blessing. And so the Torah says “Uvakharta bahayyim“–choose life, so that you and your offspring may live.”

The phrase “Choose Life” has been expropriated by those with other agendas, but the message remains clear. What isn’t entirely clear is the short comment on the follow-up phrase by our commentator of the year, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra. Ibn Ezra says “so that you may live baguf o bazekher–either in body or in memory.”

If we are commanded to choose life, we would expect to live baguf–in body. Living only in memory suggests that as passionately as we pursue the path of life, there are no guarantees that we will get to enjoy it. What kind of reward is that?

We’ll look closer at Ibn Ezra’s comment at Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday evening. We’ll be learning from a surprise guest teacher on Shabbat morning. I hope to see you then, and again in the coming days as we celebrate the arrival of 5776.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,

Rabbi David Wise