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 Thomas Jefferson wrote in the American Declaration of Independence that certain truths are self-evident. His inspiration for this idea came from our great teacher Moshe who points out clearly in this week's reading that one's choices in life are clearly evident. King Solomon in Kohelet points out that the Lord created human beings and imbued them with simple righteousness, but that they constantly search for devious means to fulfill unjust desires. The Torah, by using the verb re’eh, clearly implies that the choice between eternal life and death, between right and wrong, between good and evil is not that complicated.

One can see and sense the correct path in life and follow it. As an aid to this self evident truth, one need only review past history and contemplate what has gone before us, both personally and nationally. In all of its ritual complexities and technical rules, Judaism is, in its essence, a clear and simple faith. This point is hammered home over and over again by Moshe in his grand final oration to the Jewish people.
What made the founders of the Jewish people and the protagonists of monotheism in the world so unique was their innate ability to recognize what is self-evident in this world. Namely, that the world was created, that there is a Creator and that human beings have the ability and necessity to connect somehow with that Creator. Once these self-evident truths are acknowledged and firmly entrenched in our minds and hearts, then the laws and customs of Israel logically follow and complete the pattern of our service to the Creator and to those that He created.
Swept along by the tide of events and the wearying details of everyday life, we are often unable to stop and think about these truths that form the basis of our existence and purpose here in the world. The great Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto begins his epic masterpiece Mesilat Yesharim, with the basic question of life: “What is our purpose and goal in life?”
That question has haunted human beings throughout all of the ages and eras of human existence on this planet. This has been the issue that has been the driving force of human civilizations in all times and under all circumstances. Many have been the answers given to this question. Almost all of them have led humans away from the straight path and caused rational thinking people to deny the truths that daily remind us of who and why we are.
The powers of greed, desire, physical pleasure and unrealistic and utopian do-goodedness have overwhelmed our clear eyesight and instinctive rational thought processes. Having tasted forbidden fruit, it is extremely difficult to rid one's self of the aftertaste.
Moshe attempts to forewarn us of the consequences of not seeing and thinking correctly and clearly. Therefore before discussing any of the commandments or ritual complexities of the Torah, he first demands from his listeners and students, down through the ages, that they harken to the truths that lie before them on a constant and everyday basis. This is really the key to Judaism and Jewish survival.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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