Nitzavim

“Life does not give itself to one who tries to keep all its advantages at once. I have often thought morality may perhaps consist solely in the courage of making a choice.” What Leon Blum (1872-1950) points to here is the power that comes with the freedom of human agency. But as we learn through life and its missteps, freedom to make a choice is as empowering as it is challenging to our morality. The Torah’s pragmatic teaching shines through here, as Moses makes clear: “It is not in the heavens… neither is it beyond the sea…No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.” (Deuteronomy 30:12-14). Moses is reinforcing the practical nature of Torah and its pragmatic application to a life well lived as he reaches his 120th year. As Moses gets ready to transition leadership responsibilities to Joshua, he concludes writing the teachings of Torah in an actual scroll which is then placed for safekeeping in the Ark of the Covenant. This Torah scroll is meant to be read by the king at a gathering in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem every seventh year during the festival of Sukkot of the first year of the Shemitah cycle. The concern for continuity shines through in the pragmatism of Torah, lest its song be forgotten by the next generation.