Wednesday, August 21, 2013


15 “Look! I am presenting you today with, on the one hand, life and good; and on the other, death and evil — 16 in that I am ordering you today to love Adonai your God, to follow his ways, and to obey his mitzvot, regulations and rulings ; for if you do, you will live and increase your numbers; and Adonai your God will bless you in the land you are entering in order to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, if you refuse to listen, if you are drawn away to prostrate yourselves before other gods and serve them; (LY: Maftir) 18 I am announcing to you today that you will certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Yarden to enter and possess.

19 “I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants,20 loving Adonai your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him — for that is the purpose of your life! On this depends the length of time you will live in the land Adonai swore he would give to your ancestors Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov.”

The Essential Tension
Saturday, September 01st, 2012 | Author: Skip Moen

Choose – Ira Stone in commentary on Moses Luzzatto’s Mesillat Yesharim, observes: “As Ramchal [acronym for Moses Luzzatto] imagines it, human consciousness comprises both a yetzer ha-ra and a yetzer ha-tov, an inclination for evil and an inclination for good. Together, these define the meaning of being created in the image and likeness of God. The human condition exists in the tension between good and evil or . . . between the tension of action on behalf of the self or on behalf of another. Every human action is a result of this tension.”[1] This makes choice the most important characteristic of human existence. The verb bahar is the quintessential verb of being human. You and I are our choices. We exist in the nexus of deciding. We are always at the crossroad. Choice, every choice, results in directional repositioning. The life well-lived is a life of choices of obedience for a long time in the same direction.

Moses seems to have reflected this essential tension in his request for decision. Notice that he calls heaven and earth to be witnesses. That is typical 16th Century BC endorsement. The cosmos itself is a player on this stage. In the pagan past, the heavens and the earth, filled with gods, would act as judge and jury over the ensuing choices. Now Moses suggests that the fate of the cosmos is tied to the choices of human beings. God has so empowered human decision that His very creation hangs in the balance. Choice not only defines us. It is the most powerful force in the created world.

It’s also noteworthy that derivatives of the root bhr describe “young man,” “youth” and “chosen.” But Hebrew is not narcissistic. This is not a longing for youth. It is the recognition that young men are chosen for military service. Vigor and strength are to be put into the service of others, not to be idolized as perennial self-glorification.

Bahar paints the picture of “the house that separates (fences) the person.” Choice creates fences. Something chosen leaves other things rejected. Lines must be drawn. Doors closed. The Hebraic idea of choice is ultimately the idea of separation. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, at least not in God’s world. Choosing life automatically means rejecting death. Choosing God’s ways means forsaking all other ways. There is no middle ground here.

Moses’ appeal uses bahar in a verb tense that is active and complete (qal perfect). That means you do it. You don’t wait for God to somehow force you to choose or to choose for you. You must decide. And when you decide, the action is done, finished, terminated. “It is accomplished,” is Yeshua’s declaration that the choice is complete. So it must be for those who choose life. Vacillation, double-minded hesitation, is the enemy here. Reconsidering over and over is not choice. It is the failure to choose, and that failure has eternal, cosmic consequences. If you don’t feel the tension in your life, examine yourself! Animals have no essential tension, but every human being does.

Moses makes it clear. You and I cannot opt out without risking our humanity. We cannot sidestep the crosshairs of choosing without becoming creatures controlled by instinct. To be human is to decide between good and evil – continuously. There is no vacation from being human until all choosing has ended.

The above piece by Skip Moen is only one he has written on this topic and you can click on any of the links above and be taken to his site to search for more. It is noted that in the majority of Christian thought that the "evil inclination" must be eradicated from one's self. Yet in Hebraic thought there would be no drive to accomplish without it. 

Ben Zoma says: Who is wise? The one who learns from every person, as it is said: "From all those who taught me I gained understanding" (Psalms 119:99). Who is mighty? The one who subdues his impulses, as it is said: "Better is one slow to anger than a strong man, and one who rules over his passions than the conqueror of a city" (Proverbs 16:32). Who is wealthy? The one who is happy with his portion, as it is said: "When you eat the toil of your hands you are fortunate and it is good for you" (Psalms 128:2). "You are fortunate" [refers to] this world; "and it is good for you" [refers to] the World to Come. Who is honored? The one who honors others, as it is said: "For those who honor Me will I honor, and those who scorn Me will be degraded" (I Samuel 2:30). Ethics of Fathers 4:1


Ben Zoma continues by teaching us the definition of true power. It is not the one who can control others who is genuinely mighty, but the one who can control himself.

The assertiveness of the human ego and the persistence of human desire produce a force of almost limitless power. How much have men accomplished, both for good and for evil, through their relentless quest to gain sovereignty over their fellow men? Empires have been built, empires have been destroyed, and still human beings vie for the opportunity to lord over their neighbors. Fortunes have been amassed, only to vanish in the endless quest for more. Families have been built upon the love of wives and children, only to be shattered by infidelities driven by passion and the desire for virile conquest.

True strength is an internal phenomenon. Like a coiled spring containing extraordinary potential power is the one who can keep rein on his passions and his impulses. Rather than unleashing all their energy in a single, destructive outburst, the truly mighty are those able to release their inner power with control and direction manner to create, to build, and to save. It is the inner battle against anger, jealousy, pride, lust, and pettiness that is the proving ground for true power and true heroism.

"Hillel said, do not separate yourself from the community, do not trust yourself till the day you die, do not judge your fellow until you reach his place, do not make a statement that cannot be understood, [intending] that ultimately it will be understood. And do not say, "When I am free, then I will learn," for perhaps you will never be free." Ethics of The Fathers: 2:5

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