by Bonnie Golden - September 13, 2013

Shabbat Shalom and Good Yom Tov.

On this most holy of holy days, Yom Kippur Shabbat, we tune in toward the potential of our best selves. And Shabbat, as we know, is our covenant with the Divine to pause, learn, teach each other, relax, and restore.

It is from this profound place in time and with these themes that I share my interpretation of Nitzavim: stand. In this parshah, Moses concludes his final address to Israel, reiterating our covenant with God. He tells us that if we stray from Torah teachings we will be punished, yet assures us that we will be forgiven and be brought back from exile if we do not stray. Famously, the parshah implores us: "I put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life-if you and your offspring would live-by loving the Lord your God, heeding His commands and holding fast to God."

So I ask, what is this life that we are to choose? The portion clearly states that it is a life of living the covenant and the commandments set forth in Torah. Furthermore, every single Jew is included in this holy covenant, all Jews, whatever our journeys to Judaism: by birth or choice, physically or differently abled, and all manner of social station and partner preference, to name a few. We all count, and we are each responsible.

So to choose life, I believe we must be awake and conscious of our inner and outer world. Our rabbis teach us to stop what we are doing, and notice our lives on this earth by giving us blessings upon seeing a rainbow, or upon rising in the morning, for example.

To choose life, we must choose to see and then act for those less fortunate, and to give appropriately to improve their lives.

In choosing life, we can be awake moment to moment, day to day to the portion of water we use in this desert, or the sources of food we eat and the sources of the clothing we wear.

To choose life, we have the ability to turn off our internal cruise control and be conscious of our personal decisions. We can be quiet and listen within to how we might get carried away with judgment of others, and of ourselves. There is a split second when we are confronted with arising feelings or thoughts that may lead to actions that yes, miss the mark. This year, in that split second, take a deep breath of life, count to ten and essentially, become conscious. As Nitzavim and the Torah teach, make the Jewish, humane, ethical, compassionate, loving, and generous choice, in this life.

Again, Shabbat Shalom and L'Chaim!

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