My Torah portion, Nitzavim, starts with Moses relaying God’s message. God wanted the Israelites to agree to a covenant that would bring them blessings. But Moses foretells of a time when they rebel against God’s covenant and describes the evils that would then befall the Israelites. The covenant was a very big deal because the agreement wasn’t just for the Israelites’ present but for all the Israelites’ past, present, and future, and they were bound to it for all time. God warns that the covenant will only work if they do not worship any other gods. Also if they forsake the Torah’s commandments bad things will happen to them such as devastation, plagues, and curses.
However, Moses promises that they won’t be entirely forsaken. And that if they return to Adonai and take the blessing and curses seriously, God will forgive them and restore them to their land, allowing them another opportunity to follow the laws of the Torah. Moses tells the Israelites that the choice of life and death is before them and God tells them to “choose life”. In obeying God’s commandments, the people choose life and will be able to enjoy the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Choosing life could mean that they are choosing the path with the most blessings. Or the path that could benefit the most people. You should always choose something while thinking about the after-effects it can have. And think if you’re choosing life or if you’re actually choosing death. Like when God decided to flood the earth, and thought it was the right thing to do when in reality it was a path to death. Our tradition teaches that even God, someone of great power, can make mistakes and misjudge decisions.
Every day people need to make decisions for the greater good or a great cause. For example, climate change is a huge problem in the world, and every day people make the decision to make things better, make things stay the same, or make things worse. I’m sure most people would like to make things better so maybe a daily decision for people worldwide would be to throw away your trash or use reusable items.
Since climate change affects all of us, like following God’s covenant would affect all Israelite’s past present and future, everyone needs to come together and make a decision. There were two different decisions that could have possibly been the “right” decision when looking at God’s covenant, the decision to follow it or not to follow it. That’s very similar to the global warming crisis right now, with global warming there’s also 2 different decisions, the decision to help out or not to help out. But in this situation there is one right answer when looking at a decision good for everyone, the decision to help out.
Just like how God said Moses was setting a life or death choice, choosing between helping out the earth and doing nothing is a life or death choice that everyone needs to partake in. The choice is ours to do whatever we can to help climate change and global warming. Just the question now is why aren’t we? I’m sure that we all have made a choice selfishly without looking at the impacts it can have. And I’m sure that’s what’s happening now. When it comes to global warming there’s always that thought where “oh it’s fine someone else will do it” but if everyone thinks that then there is no one else. It’s just us.
In Genesis 2:15, God commands humans to work and protect the land. God took a man and placed him in the garden of eden to protect and guard it. Knowing this, its easy to see that ever since the beginning of time we were taking care of nature so why now should we stop that?
We need to do everything we can do protect the earth and keep it healthy, not just for us but forever everyone that comes after us. A lot of people may also think that it would be so much work to fix the planet and maybe it is but it’s work and time that needs to be spent for the greater good. So maybe next time throw away your trash or if you see trash in the ocean grab it and throw it away, get some reusable items, or maybe make the commitment to stop buying from non-eco friendly brands. There are so many ways you can support a cause and make a difference in this world so whenever you have a chance make it that choice.
The Talmud even has a quick story about a man named Honi who comes upon an elderly woman planting a tree. “Excuse me,” he says. “What kind of tree are you planting?”
“It is a carob tree,” she replies.
Carob huh? How long will it take the tree to bear fruit?
Well, she says, It will take 70 years.
70 YEARS! Cried Honi. Are you certain you will live another seventy years to enjoy the fruit of this tree?
“Perhaps not,” says the woman. But I was born into this world with many beautiful carob trees planted by those who came before me. Just as my ancestors planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will have carob to eat.
This quick story just shows that you should do things not just for yourself but for the people that come after us. Like for our future children or grandchildren and all the future generations to come. Just like how the woman in the story planted the carob tree so the future generations could enjoy the carob. So whenever you may be doing something thats not too great for the world think about the lives of the future generations and how they might have to live if we dont make an effort to change things.
And now i just wanted to say thank you to everyone that made this happen especially my mom and my uncle for giving me new things to think about for my speech,my dad for supporting me, my grandma for always getting excited when I learned a new prayer, definitely Cantor Rebekah which couldn’t be here but was the key part in this whole thing and the person that put time and effort into making sure I learned all the prayers necessary for my Bat Mitzvah Cantor Eiton for helping me finish up my prayers and being here today, definitely Rabbi Alex for helping me through creating this speech and helping me down the whole Bat Mitzvah journey. And finally thank all of you so much for being here today!