The rabbinic imagination is incredible sometimes. For those of you who have learned Talmud with me, you know that each page of Talmud is as likely to contain pearls of wisdom as fantastical tales of beasts, the Heavens, and the role of human beings. This week we read in our Torah portion the ultimate affirmation of free will and the rabbis take it a step further:
See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of Adonai your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of Adonai your God.
We are the ones to choose our actions. No one but ourselves can make the right decision. God tells us to choose between blessing or curse. But the rabbis go a step further to say that we can make a new choice every day. In the rabbinic mind, from when we go to sleep to when we wake up, in that time, we enter an entirely new world. The prayer called, “Yotzeir Or,” said in the morning just before Shema, affirms this: In God’s goodness, God renews the world each and every day, with the act of Creation. Not only are we presented with the option to choose blessings or curses, to decide to do the right thing or the wrong, but we begin each day as if it is entirely new.
On a physical level the world is relatively the same as when we fall asleep as when we wake up. BUT on a spiritual level, on a metaphysical level, we can be very different from who we were the day before. If we’re on a journey we don’t like; if we’re in a relationship that’s unhealthy; or if we’re not prioritizing our lives in the right way, then we have the opportunity to make a change and choose the right action, to choose blessing. On the other hand, if we’re on a roll of great decisions, a winning streak, or feeling unstoppable, then each day we must do the work to continue making the right decisions.
Since we are not born good or evil, we have the daily opportunity and obligation to choose what we will become. As we enter the season of so many beginnings (new school year, Rosh HaShanah, Simchat Torah), may we continually choose a life of blessing, may we be around those who bless us, and may we be a blessing to all whom we encounter.