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Choosing God Every Day

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This is what the LORD says:

"Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. - Jeremiah 9:23-24

The Torah portion for this week is Tzav, which means "command," from Leviticus 6:1-8:36, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23.

How much of your life is really in your hands?

On one end of the spectrum, some think that they control everything. They are in charge of how much money they will earn, when they will get married, how many children they will have, etc. That type of thinking works for a while until life inevitably throws us a curve ball and we are reminded all too well that we aren't in control of everything after all.

On the other end of the spectrum, some say that we aren't in charge of anything. It is God who determines the status of our wealth, health, relationships, and anything else that is a part of our lives. Judaism takes an outlook much along these lines, with one exception. There is one thing that we are in full control of - and that one thing profoundly affects everything else.

In the Talmud, Judaism's oral tradition, it is written: "All is in the hands of Heaven except fear of Heaven, as it says, And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God . . .' (Deuteronomy 10:12).

The Jewish sages explain that all that comes to a person is in the hands of God. Whether a person is tall or short, poor or rich, wise or foolish, light or dark - all of this is determined by heaven. However, whether a person will be righteous or evil is not in the hands of heaven, the sages explain, but in the hands of the person. Two paths are placed before each one of us, and we have to choose fear of God for ourselves.

I am reminded of motivational speaker Nick Vujicic who was born without any limbs. From an outsider's perspective, Nick wasn't given very much from heaven. He spent his early years feeling defeated. But Nick made the decision to choose God. He explains that because of that decision, he has been able to transcend limitations and inspire others to do the same.

This week's Haftorah reading ends with the following: "Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches . . ." How ridiculous to boast about something that we are not responsible for! It is God who makes us wise, mighty, and wealthy - and He can change that at any given moment.

The verse continues, " . . . but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me . . ." The only thing worth boasting about is the only thing that we have control of - knowing God and choosing God every day in every situation that comes our way.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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