Friday, September 23, 2022

Pro Choice in Judaism

One of the basic tenets of Judaism is the concept of free will. This fundamental belief states that no one is preordained for greatness or failure. Instead, it is the individual ability to choose that will determine the consequences that will occur. If a person makes the correct choices, then a certain positive outcome will occur, and similarly, if someone makes destructive choices in life, he bears the consequences of the negative result. This lesson is taught to us in this week's Parsha of Nitzavim. As the Torah states: ראה נתתי לפניך היום את החיים ואת הטוב ואת המות ואת הרע. ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך. "See- I have placed the life and the good before you today, and the death/ evil. And you shall choose life to live you and your offspring." Free will does not mean we can choose to do whatever we desire; rather it means we have the power to choose and are responsible for the choices. I think this message is relevant throughout the year but perhaps most compelling before Rosh Hashanah. As our tradition teaches, this is a time when we are judged before G-d and be held accountable for our actions. It may be therefore refreshing for one to know that despite anything that occurred in the past, you are free to choose a new path moving forward. Furthermore, it is quite liberating to know that we get to choose that path and not be resigned to preconceived notions about what you or your life should look like. I fondly recall one of our members who, at the age of 80, decided that he was going to start studying the Talmud despite never having studied it in his life before. He joined our Daf Yomi group and came every morning to study, and never missed a day. By the time he passed away at 84, he had managed to study most of the Talmud. That's because he said the past is gone, but I will choose to enrich my life moving forward with a daily dose of Torah Study. So as we enter a new year, remember it is time to consider your aspirations and goals. It will only be acheived if you choose to pursue it. Otherwise, it will remain in the dustbin of wasted dreams. So perhaps the most important question you might ask yourself on Rosh Hashanah is, am I going to choose to pursue my goals this year?". To paraphrase the sage Hillel, if you won't do it, no one will. And if not now, when?" Have a Great Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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