And you should return to G-d your Lord and listen to his voice to everything I have taught you today, you and
your children with your whole heart and your whole soul.
This Perasha has two very important lessons for us: Freedom of choice and the ability to change for better or worse. This change can effect the outcome of a person’s life.
Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory have discussed this in the Midrash.
The Foundation of the Universe
“Before G-d created the universe, the Holy one Blessed be He and his great name were alone. It came to mind to create the universe. He would etch out the universe in front of him and it would not stand. This is proverbial to a king who wished to build his palace. If he does not etch out the foundations and the boundaries, the entrances and exits, he may not begin building. In such a way did G-d etch out the universe, It would not stand until he created repentance.” (Perkie Derebbe Eliezer 3)
The above quote is explained by Rabbi David Luria – the RADAL that the world would not stand because man, who is most important to the world would in the future sin, therefore the possibility to repent was created. That is to say that the universe has built into its foundations the possibility for human imperfection, mistakes and even maliciousness, and that all of these can be fixed through repentance. This is alikened to the rubber band which stretches. Just as the rubber band would be useless without its permeability. Similarly, in the absence of repentance the world could not even last for the shortest amount of time.
Once a person changes for the better his lot can change also. Once you realize the emptiness of certain lifestyles, change your activities appropriately and decide never to change back it is considered that you never erred. Indeed, our Rabbis of Blessed Memory have said that a person who has gone through such change is better than a righteous person.
This concept of Teshuva is intertwined with the fact that Human Beings have freedom of choice. If a person did not have freedom of choice he could not be held responsible for his actions. A subsequent regretting of his nasty deeds would not be praiseworthy. Additionally, if a righteous man fell out of his good habits and started to do all sorts of nasty things we should not be at all surprised.
In every generation there are people who deny freedom of choice in order to rationalize thievery, violence and other sick lifestyles. In ancient times they believed in fate. During other epochs they believed in other stupidity. Today people are not held responsible because of Society, Genetics, television and other feeble-minded nonsense.
The ability to make a mistake and to fix that problem is embedded in the universe. Each individual has the ability to do as he please. It is suggested that you should chose doing good. As it says in our Perasha:
You see that I have put in front of you today life and goodness and death and evil.
Many of our Rabbis of Blessed Memory believed that the words “good”, “Torah” and “Life” were interchangeable. The Rambam – Maimonides in his Guide to the Perplexed said that true notions are called life and wrong notions are called death.
The end of Perashat Nitzvim (Ch. 30) basically ends the final speech of Moshe Rabienu which started from the beginning of the book of Devarim. One of the final phrases is:
You will chose life so that you will live.
These few words some up everything which Moshe Rabienu taught Benie Yisrael.