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GOOD MORNING! What is free-will? It is not deciding whether you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream. That is weighing your desires. It is not deciding which road you'll take to get home. That's calculating the benefits of each alternative. Free-will is the ability to choose between moral choices - right and wrong.
What does the Torah teach us regarding free-will? In Deuteronomy 30:15-19 the Almighty says:
"See, I have put before you, life and good, death and evil ... choose life so that you may live..."
Why does it say "choose life" and not conclude with "choose good"?
The answer: Every human being thinks he is doing the right thing -especially the evil ones! They simply rationalize their evil activities as "good." As an extreme example, Adolph Hitler, may his name and memory be blotted out, once made a speech claiming that the German people were the only truly moral people. What was his proof? They set up societies to take care of our pets while sending us to the gas chambers.
The Torah says the problem isn't that we choose evil. The problem is that we choose death. What does the Torah mean when it uses the term "choosing death"? We can gain an understanding from looking at why a person commits suicide. He wants to avoid or escape from pain. Often this is not just from physical pain, but the pain of facing problems, challenges or embarrassment. The death to which the Torah refers is the escape from pain of life.
"Death" is a choice that is available to all of us, every second of the day. Every time we decide to avoid facing an issue or dealing with responsibility it is a form of death - it is an escape. In life, there are many ways we choose to escape. Drugs are one form of escape. Killing time is an escape. If you're turning on the TV just because you're bored, isn't that a form of suicide? We could be using our time to live and grow. But we quit because it's too difficult.
We all choose to escape, now and then, from the effort that's involved in accomplishing the goals and ambitions that we have for ourselves in life. We all want to be great; we all want to change the world. It's just that we don't always feel like putting in the effort. So, we distract ourselves and escape from who we really are and what we want to achieve.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg, head of Aish HaTorah, writes:
"Greatness lies in how we resolve conflicts - in using our free will to grow - not to quit. To face reality - not to escape. To live and not to die. When we escape problems, we escape the chance of becoming great. It's a constant battle every moment of our lives."
Every moment we're alive, we're using our free will to choose between life and death, reality or escapism. It's a constant choice. We are either making the choice to take the pain in order to grow, or we're quitting. How we resolve that conflict is where our greatness lies. Our greatness is found in using our free will to live, fight and accomplish - rather than run away. To choose to live is to choose to embrace life and choose to better ourselves and the world!
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe continues his soliloquy guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success lest that we forget and ignore God.
Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness ("Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to occupy this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.") He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments after the sin of the Golden Calf.)
This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is:
"Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that comes out of God's mouth." (Deut. 8:3)
The Torah then addresses a question which every human being has asked of himself: "What does God want of me?" The answer:
"Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours." (Deut. 10:12).
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And you shall circumcise the covering of your heart, and you shall not continue to be stiff-necked." (Deuteronomy 10:16)
What is this verse coming to teach us?
Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm teaches that this verse contains a commandment to love words of correction and to love those who try to correct you. The latter half of this verse contains a prohibition against failing to listen to those who try to correct you.
A person who does not want to change will resent those who try to correct him. Such a person is far from improving himself. A person pays a doctor for trying to heal him from illness and is very grateful to the doctor. This should be your attitude towards people who try to help you improve spiritually. Remove any traces of resentment towards those who rebuke you. When you have a true desire for self-improvement, you will feel love towards those who give you suggestions on ways you can improve. (Chochmah Umussar, vol.1, p. 34)
CANDLE LIGHTING - August 6:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:09 Hong Kong 6:42 Honolulu 6:47
J'Burg 5:26 London 8:19 Los Angeles 7:30
Melbourne 5:16 Miami 7:44 Moscow 8:06
New York 7:46 Singapore 6:58
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The difference between perseverance and obstinacy
is that one often comes from a strong will,
and the other from a strong won't.
-- Henry Ward Beecher
Mazal Tov to