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A Choice Economy?

Friday, 26 August, 2011 - 3:30 pm

Never before have Wall Street’s greatest stalwarts and Washington’s shrewdest pundits been so puzzled. There is widespread agreement that the economy is fragile at best.  But everyone seems to be scratching their heads about what we can do to right the ship.

The President, the candidates seeking to replace him and economists are all trying desperately to come up with a plan that will drastically improve our country’s abysmal unemployment and lethargic economic growth.

Certainly there are debates to be had and choices to be made.

***

In the opening words of this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, we are told, “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you will heed the commandments of the L-rd your G-d, which I command you today; and the curse, if you will not heed the commandments of the L-rd your G-d, but turn away from the way I command you this day, to follow other gods, which you did not know.”

Maimonides, citing this verse, states that free choice is one of the fundamentals of Judaism. We are free to choose and are therefore held accountable, receiving reward – or punishment – for our actions.

But what does it mean to choose? If someone would ask American society and leadership whether we want our current economy, the resounding response would be “No!” But it still is a result of the choices that we have made (collectively).

To many of us, making good choices is something we try to do when we have dilemmas. “How should I respond to this ethical challenge?” we often wonder. Or, “Should I go out with my friends if I have yet to finish my homework?”

***

I’ve often wondered why G-d needs to state the obvious. If the verses tell us explicitly which activities are blessings and which are a curse, does G-d need to tell us that “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse?”

Perhaps the Torah is telling us what types of choices we need to make. “Behold, I set before you today” means not only responding to dilemmas, but setting and charting the moral and spiritual course of our lives. Every day we have opportunities. Each opportunity is a choice. Instead of simply reacting, the Torah is teaching us to be proactive. To seek out the correct and sacred choices.

We may disagree on how to remedy the ailing economy, but we all agree that the problem is due to the choices we made. Choices that – at the time – we may not have realized were indeed choices.

That’s it for now – I’ve got to go find some good choices to make.

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