dvar Nitzavim 5782
“See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity.”
– Deuteronomy 30:15, JPS 1985 Tanach
To accept this statement, it can be said, requires an acknowledgment of an omniscient G-d, Who has the good in mind, for our well-being. To be reliant on His discernment, of what is life-affirming and prosperous for us, versus what is destructive to the soul and adverse to our moral growth, is to accept standards that are given by a Higher Wisdom than mankind can contrive on his own.
Thus, G-d not only gives us the consequences of choosing life or death (to follow what is good for us, and avoid what is bad) according to His commandments, He also encourages us to choose life, so that our soul may flourish, and ultimately be granted chayei olam (eternal life). Sforno comments that “life” refers to “eternal life, not just life on earth,” and death refers to “eternal oblivion” (see Sforno’s commentary on Deuteronomy 30:15, sefaria.org).
Yet, mankind cannot design a set of principles, consisting of rules and regulations, concerning what is permissible vs. what is impermissible, and in doing so, guarantee our personal well-being, let alone our entrance into Olam Haba (the World-to-Come). This can be clearly demonstrated by most of mankind’s inability to govern his own passions. That being the case, anyone unable to tame his own unruly nature, is certainly not fit to govern others.
The Torah takes this into consideration, by requiring a King of Israel to not only write his own Torah scroll, but to have the Torah with him at all times, in order to discern right and wrong from its instruction. That is to say, that a king, according to G-d’s requirement, is not above the law. The Torah “shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the L-RD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren” (Deuteronomy 17:19-20).