While sitting on a beach in southern California, I watched in awe as 20+ birds fell into a flawless formation across the sky. Each one filled his or her position against the cloudless ceiling forming a perfect and beautiful V as we down below gawked in amazement. These same gulls, just moments later, swarmed down upon the sand, overturned beach bags and made a huge mess of lunches that were rendered inedible and which wreaked havoc upon the heretofore pristine beach.
In another community, miles from the beach, a shot was heard commencing a run for the money. Once the gun sounded, runners sponsored by family and friends moved to the sound of their own drummers on behalf of many who could not themselves leave their beds and wheelchairs to walk or to run. A second shot left its chamber and was heard more recently, sent through the window of a moving car, lodging in the lungs of an innocent 11 year-old girl whose only mistake was sitting on her front porch to do her homework.
Birds, guns, astringent cleansers, jet planes, pharmaceutical drugs, moving trains, strong rains. Good or bad? Blessing or curse? Perhaps each of these things is inherently neutral, or unquantifiable, while still in its infancy, still in its original packaging, lying dormant on the table or quietly on the beach; perhaps it is how we use these things, in whose hands they are placed, and/or the choices each of us makes, that assigns an ultimate, and potentially oh-so-significant, measure to it. Sort of like our lives, perhaps.
In the first Torah portion we chant this month, Re'eh, Behold, we read:
“Re'eh anochee notane leefanechem h'yom b'racha ook'lahlah.”
“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; the blessing if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your G-d, which I command you this day; and the curse if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your G-d, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day.”
Commentary tells us that, both as individuals and as a nation, the Israelites were endowed with free-will and the choice between what is known as the Two Ways rested within themselves. It is further shared that these words, spoken to us by Moses, our teacher, were actually a very deeply felt appeal by G-d Himself, through Moses, as the entire future of our nation depended upon making the right choice.
Each of us makes choices all day, every day. As a matter of fact, motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, shared that we each make 3 decisions every minute. And, each of these choices, no matter how minute or inconsequential they may seem, has innumerable consequences—for us and for so many of the lives we touch. Our decisions shape our destinies, Robbins says, and every moment we are making potentially life altering choices. Every minute we answer these following questions: What am I going to focus on? What does this mean to me? What am I going to do about it? Tony Robbins recounts that when a young black woman named Rosa Parks decided not to give up her seat on the bus, it was not only her life that was forever changed.
What kinds of choices do we make, choices that will determine whether our lives have been, or truly will be, for a blessing—or a curse? How do we use the material resources we have amassed? Do we overeat and over drink, over spend on ourselves and hoard more goods than we'll ever use? Or, do we share our bounty with others, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked? How do we use our time, our Divinely-granted moments on earth? Do we sleep away precious leisure hours, watch TV incessantly or sit and think—only about our own needs and wants? Or, do we use our valuable minutes listening to others, paying attention to children, visiting those who are lonely, staying connected with friends and family and welcoming the stranger? And, how do we choose to use our energies, our strengths? Our hands? To battle, or irreparably pollute our world, to regularly pat ourselves on the back? Or to hug, to build and to lift our fellow man or woman?
The choice is ours to make and lies before us today, just as it did before our ancestors as they stood at the border of the Promised Land. Will our lives be a blessing or a curse? Each of us needs to answer this for ourselves: exactly 3 times every minute.