I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.
Deuteronomy is basically Moses reiterating the history of the Jewish people and their obligations to follow God's laws and commandments. In many of these exhortations there are carrots and sticks to encourage the Israelites to do the right thing, but as a result of marketing department focus groups Moses calls these blessings and curses. We are reaching the end of the book of Deuteronomy and the end of Moses's life. In this wonderful summary section, the entire obligation of the Jewish people is wrapped up in the notion of doing the right thing and earning blessings and life (rather than not doing the right thing and earning curses and death).
My favorite phrase is "Therefore, Choose Life!" Much commentary has focused on life, on blessing, on the positive choice. My emphasis is on the word CHOOSE. This is an active verb and I believe we should choose with the same urgency, purpose and directed energy that we bring to eating, to singing, to cycling, to doing. Choice is very powerful - all activity is choice, and choice is therefore the fulcrum on which our world turns. In every instant we choose, either blindly or with full consciousness. As we choose we create our world. We literally choose life in each instant, or we choose death. We choose to affirm, to act, to see or we choose to close our eyes, to ignore, to avoid.
Earlier in this same week's reading (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) we find that God's law
[...] is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.
It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?'
Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?'
But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Here is the crux of choice. Choices are immediate. They are not far away, remote, distant, hard to find. In each instant we make choices. We choose to accept what is and we choose to create a new reality. We cannot say our actions are irrelevant and that we have no impact on our world. Each moment we choose, and we have profound impact (like that butterfly beating its wings, causing hurricanes across the globe).
Therefore, Choose Life!
While you can, and if you haven't, please go ahead and sponsor Hannah or me for the Hazon 2006 New York Bike ride.