• By Rabbi Zvi Solomons
Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance…” These are the opening words of the classic 1990s film Trainspotting, a dark but humorous movie about heroin addiction. Living in a consumer society can seem confusing. The choices which we all make are so many and so confusing that it is sometimes hard to make up our minds.
Remember the confusion of consumers when supermarkets had more than one brand in the newly-liberated Soviet Union? Being creatures of habit, we will often just carry on with the things we normally do, regardless of what it is doing to us. Routine is easy. That is not even to mention when comfort with the status quo, and even addiction, encourage behaviour which is hurting us far more than choosing differently would. The Torah parsha this week talks about how the choice is ours. We have the option to choose to keep the Torah or to reject it.
We can lead a good life and enhance others’ lives or make our own and others’ a living hell. Sartre’s play, Huit Clos (No Exit), is focused on something that we have all observed. Hell can be other people. Yet I do not say what Sartre wished us all to agree – that hell is other people. This world is what we make of it. It is for us to choose. When the Torah talks about having a blessing and a curse before us, what it means is that we have a choice. Once settled in the Land of Israel, the Torah wants us to see this physically – the two mountains Gerizim and Ebal physically represent the choice.
This visual learning opportunity was possible because everyone was called together to witness the potential to do good and to do evil in each of us. As we bless the New Moon for the introspective month of Ellul, it is wise for us to take stock of ourselves, and our communities. We have a wonderful chance to consider what we are doing to make the world a better place, to spread light in a world where so many wish to spread darkness, and to find ways of expressing our mission as Jews committed to Torah where there are so few of us.
The first place we can look to change is ourselves. Are we choosing blessing or curse? What would happen if we changed our choices? Are we ourselves a blessing or a curse? The answer, and the choice, is with you.