It comes in the face of an inner battle.
It involves sacrifice.
It is an intellectual decision.
It is a calculation of benefit, weighing the short term pleasures against the long term gratification.
It is the testimony of the soul.
We are about to enter a month whose predominant theme is that of Teshuva. It is a month of spiritual accounting wherein we review the past and resolve for the future. It is a spirit of change, an attempt to leave behind the mistakes and….
Teshuva is based on the idea of free choice. It is perhaps the most central principle that ..
Last week we read a fundamental concept and a pillar[on which rests the totality] of he Torah and Mitzvot as [Dvarim 30;15] states “Behold I have set before you today lie and good, death and evil.” Similarly, [Dvarim 11;26] sates “Behold I have set before you today the blessing and the curse”, implying that the choice is in your hands.
This is a more qualitative difference between human beings and animals. Possessing both a soul and a body is a categorical distinction that sets us apart from everything in the physical and spiritual universe, and according to Tanach, draws us to both. The possession of such a lofty soul distinguishes us from all other creatures, drawing us towards godliness and spirituality.
Sforno identifies a distinction that is central to Jewish philosophy and mysticism alike. Unlike any other physical or spiritual being, we have free choice.
The capacity for free choice is a tremendous gift and distinction for man. But what we can do with our power of free choice is not always a positive distinction, to say the least.
The species of man became singular in the world with no other species resembling it in the following quality: that he can, on his own initiative, with his knowledge and thought know good and evil and do what he desires…
Any one of the deeds of men which a person desires to do he may, whether good or evil. Therefore, [Dvarim 5;26] states: If only their hearts would always remain this way.” From this we can infer that the Creator does not compel or decree that people should do either good or bad. Rather, everything is left up to their free choice.
—Rambam, Mishna Torah, Hilchos Teshuva, Ch. 5:1,3
The name of this week’s Torah portion is Re’eh, which means, “see.” It begins what is perhaps the most important message in the entire Chumash, “See, I place before you today a blessing and a curse.” The blessing will come when we fulfill G-d’s commandments and the curse if they abandon them. The choice is ours.
This compelling theme appears again (chapter 30:15) during the portion of Netzavim, where we find a parallel statement. The passage again begins with the word re’eh (“see I have set before you…”), but three choices are now set before us: between life and death, good and bad, and blessing and curse. All of these choices are incorporated into the final punch line of this unit of verses ...”and you shall choose life!”
Choose life! Why is this final command necessary? Who would not choose life over death? And who doesn’t want blessings rather than curses? Furthermore, why is there this constant emphasis on the negative being “set before us”?
The answer has to do with a deeper understanding of “free choice.” Free choice is not simply the ability to choose. Rather it is the ability to choose in a context where the distinction between good and evil, life and death, and blessings and curses can become blurred. Only then can there be true “freedom” and true merit in our decisions. It is for this reason- to create this tension- that the opposite of good is placed before us.
Every day of our lives we face a series of choices: between good and evil, blessing and curse and life affirming actions. On the surface, the choice is not always clear. There are competing desires inside us that can make death appear to be life, curses appear as a blessing, and doing “the right thing” seem impossible. It is then that we dig deep and remember the command to “choose life.”
Who would choose death over life?
Free choice is not simply the ability to choose, but a….
It occurs in a context where the benefit of that decision, over the other option, is hidden. Rarely do we choose “freely” in the sense of….If we perceive the benefit of the decision, we run the risk of being lured by the advantages, seduced into choosing an option that an objective mind might discover is immoral or destructive.
 As seen in the Seforno, “with G-d, this power is used entirely to perform good- while man’s free will is not always…”)