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Parashat Nitzavim (English)

Yehoshua Lhungdim LIFE AND DEATH

"See-i have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil" [Devarim 30:15]

Rashi explains that each one [life or death] is dependent on the other. If you do well, you will be granted life while if you do evil, you will receive death.

We already knows that Rosh Hashanah is near to us. I believe we all want to live and see a coming good year. The choice as we see-is given to us by god. But even after all this message, our hearts are still as hard as stone. In my opinion in relation to what Rabbi Eliezer said in Mishnah avot 2:10--for one to repent, one must always think that he/she only have today to live. This is what is hinted in our above verse. See i have placed before you today-only today. If you always think everyday that today is your only last day and only chance to repent, then you will get the life and the good. And if not, god forbid-death and evil. Lets remember what Rabbi Cruspedai said in the name of rabbi Yokhanan that three ledgers are open in Rosh Hashanah: one for those who are entirely wicked, one for those who are entirely righteous and one for those who are in the middle.

In parashat re'eh the verse that is similar with our verse above only says about blessings and curse but not life and death. Rabbi Meir Simkha Hakohen[meshekh khokhmah] asks the question why it is so? he explains that the difference between the verse stems from that the verse in parashat Re'eh is before am Israel receive the mitzvah of teshuvah and the verse above in our parasha is after am Israel receive the mitzvah of teshuvah. Still, what is the difference in it? He answers that when one sins, it is possible that it’s his evil inclination that lures him to sin. And the sin itself brings curse. And so only curse is written. However when one already knows that it is possible to do teshuvah and when one does not take advantage of this possibility, the lawsuit against him is much much greater. Therefore the punishment is much greater, and because of this not only is he curse but he receives death. This is why the Torah states you should choose life which means do not sin and if you sin-repent so that you may live.

Rabbi Pinkhas Halevi Ish Hahorovitz in his book Panim Yafot in citing our verse above explains that we can learn how to defeat the yetzer hara by 2 ways in connection to the words of our sages in Masechet brakhot 5a. Our sages said that one must always make his yetzer tov provoke his yetzer hara. If he wins-good, and if he does not win-let him occupy himself in Torah or read Kriath shema, and still if he does not win-let him remind himself of the day of death. The 2 ways are:-

1. Occupying ourselves with true life and clinging to god by learning torah or kriath shema. This is the good way.

2. If he does not succeed by the first way, one should expel the yetzer hara by breaking his heart. Via remind himself of the day of death or gehinom.

These 2 ways are hinted in our verse:-

1. The life and the good:-to occupy ourself in Torah or read kriath shema.

2. The death and the evil:-remind himself of the day of death.

Rabbi Avraham Mordekhai Feldmen in his book ta'amei hamikra asks the question why the torah precedes the word life before good. Is it not that in the merit of doing good one gets life? And so too with the continuation of the verse. Is it not that when one does evil, one is punished with death because of the evil? As we can see, Rashi too explains it that way. We can see the explanation too in the next verse that it is as Rashi explains it. [See verse 16 and 17]

Verse 16. That which i command you today. If you do well.

Then you will live and you will multiply:-you will get life.

Verse 17. But if your heart will stray:-if you do evil.

I tell you today that you will surely be lost:-you will receive death.

So rabbi Mordechai explains that the verse i have placed before you the life comes to include the part that brings us to life that is the good, because tzaddikim are called living in the merit of the good in them. And vice versa the death and the evil. The death comes to include the reshaim as they are called death even when they are alive because of the evil in them. The verse only comes here to explain to us in what the life and death depends and what is the cause of life and death.

Lastly when one does well to someone or something, he gives life to himself and so too-to that someone or something. Shabbat shalom and Shana tova umetuka. Shenizke kulanu lehikatev besefer khayim tovim amen ken yehi ratzon.

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