Choose Life

Friday, 11 September, 2015 - 7:58 am

Choose Life

On the last day of his life, Moses speaks to the Jewish people, and tells them to choose life:

This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live [1].

One does not have to be a genius to understand the superiority of life over death. Why then does Moses spend his last moments with the Jewish people saying something so obvious? [2]

If there are two distinct paths, one path of life and another of death, then, indeed, we do not need Moses to tell us to choose life. The reality, however, is much more complex. Moses is addressing the reality that for the most part, there is but one path. Yet, the path itself is a combination of both good and evil. Moses is saying that everything one does, any activity one engages in, any relationship one pursues, contains both life and death. Moses is telling a person to discover and choose the life within any given act. 

Everything on this earth is comprised of matter and spirit, of body and soul. The body, even while alive, represents the element of death, as it is destined to die and decompose. The same is true of all matter. It will eventually decompose or change its form. Its current existence is destined to cease to exist, and therefore, even in the fleeting moment of cosmic time when it does exist, it represents death.

The soul of every person, and of all matter, is life. The soul is alive, not only at this given moment; but rather it is alive for eternity.

When Moses tells the people to choose life, he is not telling them to disengage from the material and to cleave to the spiritual. On the contrary, if we look carefully we will notice that Moses never says that there are two paths, one of which a person should choose. Moses is saying that when a person takes the one and only path, the path of life on this earth, which consists of the fusion of body and soul, he should choose to cleave to the dimension of life within the given act. 

When a person interacts with the world around him, he has a choice. He can engage, enjoy, and relate to the externality of the thing/person/place, to the material dimension. Alternatively, he can relate to the soul of the thing/person/place. He can engage, enjoy, and relate to its essence, its soul, its life.

When one takes a bite of food, one can practice mindful eating, paying careful attention to the taste and texture of the food. Alternatively, one can choose life, one can be mindful of the divine spark in the food, waiting to become part of human energy, waiting to become fuel for a good deed, thus returning the spark to its spiritual source.

When one interacts with family and friends, with co-workers and neighbors, one can look at the external aspect of the person. Alternatively, one can choose life. One can choose to focus on the essence of the person, on the soul.

Moreover, when one stands in Shul on Rosh Hashanah, with a heart full of hope and prayer, for a blessed new year, one thinks about his needs, desires and aspirations. One can and should choose life, thinking about the needs, desires and aspirations of his soul as well.

On the last day of his life Moses implores every Jew to choose soul, to choose life.


 [1]Deuteronomy 30:19

 [2] There are multiple meanings to the commandment to choose life. On the simplest level Moses is telling us to not be suicidal. While the simple meaning applies only to dramatic circumstances where one must choose between physical life and physical death, the mystical interpretation, offered here, applies to every interaction, every moment of every day.  

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