Sedra of the Week: Netzavim

Sedra of the Week: Netzavim

 Rabbi Jonny Roodyn looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

This week’s parsha always falls before Rosh Hashanah, providing context and setting the tone for the upcoming festival. There are many reasons given for this synchronisation, but there is one that I find particularly compelling.

‘’I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live.’’ (Devarim 30:19)

The late Rabbi Noah Weinberg, founder of Aish Hatorah, used to his students to explain it. What kind of a statement is this, ‘’choose life in order that you should live’’? How many of us actively choose death?

He would explain that we are always confronted with escape routes that stop us engaging fully with our responsibilities. People daydream, incessantly check their phones, not just to read messages, but even just to see if they have a new one.

On an even more serious level, there are no shortage of people who turn to drink and drugs as a way of escaping.

He would say that killing time is suicide on an instalment plan. And suicide is the most drastic and final form of escape.

The reason why we read this parsha before Rosh Hashanah is to tell us to wake up and smell the coffee! To engage with life rather than escape from it.

Rosh Hashanah is the day when we stand in the dock, our lives are under scrutiny and we are asked to justify our existence. Rosh Hashana is indeed a celebration, the festival of being accountable, of leading a meaningful and fulfilled life.

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is education director of Jewish Futures Trust

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