motzei Shabbos: parashas Nitzavim 5781 – Choose Life

“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.”

  • Deuteronomy 30:15, JPS 1917 Tanach

“Behold, I have set before you this day the way of life, wherein is the recompense of the reward of good unto the righteous, and the way of death, wherein is the retribution of the wages of evil unto the wicked.” – Deuteronomy 30:15, Targum Yonaton


Sforno comments, “eternal life, not just life on earth” (sefaria.org). Likewise, the opposite is mentioned “eternal oblivion” (Sforno, ibid.), not only physical death. These are the destinations of the two paths, delineated in Torah – the way of life, and the way of death, corresponding to our two inclinations, the yetzer tov (good inclination), and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). In the modern world, it is not always clear what choices we make will lead us down one or the other road. This is mostly because, there are no signposts to be found, showing us which way we are headed. The world would like us to believe that all roads lead to Rome, Nirvana, or G-d. However, nothing could be further from the truth.


In the Torah, G-d is explicit, concerning the path we are to follow, and the path that we are not to follow. “Behold, I have set before you this day the way of life, wherein is the recompense of the reward of good unto the righteous, and the way of death, wherein is the retribution of the wages of evil unto the wicked” (Targum Jonathan on Deuteronomy 30:15, sefaria.org). If we make an effort to follow our good inclination, by listening to the conscience, and doing what is right, then we will be rewarded for our efforts. Yet, if we give in to the evil inclination, adhering to our “lesser instincts,” falling prey to sin, then we will receive retribution for actions. It is more challenging to do good, than to be lured into temptation by the desires of the heart. For this reason, we can only conquer the yetzer hara with the help of G-d.

parashas Shelach 5781 – self esteem

parashas Shelach 5781

“Send men, that they may spy the land of Canaan which I give to the people Israel”

  • Numbers 13:1

The actual phrase used, shelach lecha means send out for yourself or send out according to your own understanding; this is a clue to what transpired, before H’Shem gave the commandment to send out the spies. The full account is given later in Torah: “And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said: ‘Let us send men before us, that they may search the land for us, and bring us back word of the way by which we must go up, and the cities unto which we shall come” (Deuteronomy 1:22, JPS 1917 Tanach).

So, the people, had previously been told to take possession of the land, “as the L-RD, the G-d of thy fathers, hath spoken unto thee; fear not, neither be dismayed”(Deuteronomy 1:21, JPS). However, they wanted reassurance on their own terms, that they would be able to take the land; hence, they were more interested in making an assessment of their own, to discern whether or not they could do so: rather than fully trusting in H’Shem, that He would lead the way. What they did not realize is that, H’Shem would fight for them; therefore, they should not have been concerned about forming a military strategy for battle against the local inhabitants.


Moreover, except for Joshua and Caleb, who had “a different spirit,” the other spies –ten of them –gave an ill report of the land; furthermore, they convinced the people that it would be futile to make an attempt to take possession of the land, at that time, inasmuch that there were giants there. The Torah states that the ten spies said, “We saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who came of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13: 33, JPS).


In other words, in their own estimation of themselves, they saw themselves as grasshoppers, as compared to the giants; and they perceived that the giants also saw them as small and inconsequential. They lost confidence in themselves, and in H’Shem; and the lack of the morale spread to the rest of the people. Consequently, the people refused to make an attempt to conquer the land at that moment in time. Yet, for ourselves, today, if we know that H’Shem supports us in our good endeavors, we should trust in Him, and not in ourselves, so that our efforts may be brought to fruition.