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    Choices – Sh’mini

    Elections are always under discussion in a democracy – did we elect the right government? Will we vote for someone else next time?

    Elections make you feel important. Maybe it is your vote on which the whole future of the country hangs!

    Some say Judaism created democracy: Look at the end of the sidra and see how the people are given the capacity of havdalah, choosing between options. Look at the sidra Mishpatim, where it is up to the people to decide whether they want the national constitution or not.

    But there is a problem. The rabbis say that when Israel stood at Sinai they were not given any options about accepting or rejecting the Torah: “God upturned the mountain over them and said, ‘If you accept the Torah, well and good; but if not, this will be your burial place!'”

    It seems there are two types of choice – the one completely free, allowing us to choose the option we want; the other a situation we are given, when what we choose is how to handle it. Pirkei Avot says, “Despite yourself you were born, you live, and will in future have to give account and reckoning”.

    No-one asked us if we wanted to be born; that is a given. But where we do have a choice is what we do with our life. Shall we hate life and wish we were dead, or embrace its glorious possibilities and celebrate the privilege of being alive?

    Perhaps you will say, but what about someone who is severely ill or disabled? You can’t tell them to be ecstatic about their incapacities, but where they have a choice is whether to rise above their limitations and make a difference to the world.

    There is too the problem of the lonely person overtaken by depression. To them we might say, are you lonely because you have no friends? Go out and be a friend. Are you lonely because you have nowhere to go?

    Start by going to shule and helping to make a congregation. In doing something for others your own problems become so much smaller.

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