This week, we have two portions since there are more portions than weeks in a year. The portions go from Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30.
The first portion is called Nitzavim, meaning 'Standing Erect' in Hebrew. In the portion, Moses comforts the Children of Israel who, upon hearing the curses contained in last week's portion, began to tremble. He comforts them that G-d has chosen them eternally to be His special people.
I call this day upon heaven and earth as witnesses. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
G-d commands the Children of Israel (G-d's Torah is eternal and applies today, in every single situation) to live a life of goodness and holiness. The Torah is implying that a life devoide of blessing or goodness is not really life at all. It is not good enough to simply be alive, you must utilize your time on this earth to do carrying out G-d's will. This commandment to choose life does simply forbid suicide or euthanasia but tells us to choose life at every single moment of every single day. When you wake up in the morning, instead of hitting the snooze button, get up and praise G-d. Instead of fighting with your family or being angry and upset, be kind and forgiving. At every moment, choose life and goodness rather than sin, which is death. Only a life that is imbued with the G-dly values of the Torah is a life that has value- otherwise it is simply emptiness.
There's a story in the Talmud that states that before G-d put you on this Earth, you asked your soul whether it would like to be given a body or not. The fact that you are here means that your soul was given the choice to go down to Earth, to be subjected to the physical world in all its difficulties. You chose to be here! You are here for a purpose.
11. For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.
12. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?" 13. Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?"
14. Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.
G-d put you here to live. That means that keeping the Torah doesn't mean giving things up, restricting yourself. Living the Torah is living on a higher dimension, G-d's dimension. To serve G-d, you don't need to be a hermit in a cave, sell all of your belongings and move to an ashram or to become celibate and renounce all pleasures. The Torah is not in the heavens! The Torah is not over the sea! The Torah is not across the sea! It is in our heart, close to us. G-d doesn't give us any task that is too difficult for us. He is not asking us to cross the sea to do his will. That is the difference between the Torah and other belief-systems. Holiness isn't on a lonely mountain top or in a desert. Holiness is, as the Torah states, near to our hearts. It is in an act of kindness, a Jewish woman lighting candles on Friday night or (for non-Jews) observing the 7 laws of Noah. This is where true holiness can be found. The second Torah portion is called VaYelech which comes from the Hebrew verb 'to walk'. That is what G-d truly wants from us, that we should walk peacefully along with Him and live a life of goodness, kindness and blessing.
"Its ways are pleasantness and all its paths are peace. It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy." (Psalms 3:17-18)
Cross-posted to the Barnyard