On the Shabbat before the High Holy Day season begins, we read from parashat Nitzavim. Nitzvaim includes Deuteronomy chapter 30 and I can’t seem to shake this text from my mind as it is anthem for 5780. “See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments, laws, and rules, that you may thrive and increase, and that God may bless you in the land that you are about to enter and possess. … I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life — if you and your offspring would live.”
Choose life. We can’t necessarily control the things that happen to us, but we can control the way we respond. Life is filled with the good and the bad, the blessing and the curse. This past year it seems as though more and more challenges have come our way. Choosing life is not simply a decision, like what am I going to have for breakfast, but a mindset, a grittiness, a passion for life and living no matter what is going on around us. If we still haven’t learned from Jewish history, maybe COVID-19 will teach us. Choose life. Be resilient. Get gritty and know that gam zeh yaavor, this too will pass. The real question is who we will be when it is over. May we all go m’chayil l’chayil, from strength to strength. 5780 has taught us to get gritty and choose life every day.
Rabbi Larry Sernovitz is the senior rabbi of Temple Kol Emeth