The Blessing of Choice
September 2, 2022
By Jeff Clark

I absolutely cannot stand driving down Main St. into the city.  Red light after red light, people crossing the street at random places, car doors opening into the driving lane, half a dozen reduced speed zones, cars recklessly changing lanes; it’s a free-for-all.  While I consciously work to be a more patient, calm, kind person, any progress on those ideals instantly all but dissolve for my 20-minute trek into downtown.

What I tend to forget about those commutes is that they also offer me a time to relax and reflect.  There are few other moments during my week when I am alone with my thoughts and can process through my emotions and perspectives.  In that way, the drive can be therapeutic. 

I’ve also made great use of this time to maintain long-distance friendships.  I’ll commonly spend the first leg of the trip listening to a WhatsApp message from a dear friend in Germany, then leave a recorded message for my cousin in Australia on the way home.

My perspective, which I can control, is the only difference between the trips that can be so frustrating while others are meaningful and enriching.

Perhaps that is a lesson from within last week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, which begins, “See I place before you today blessing and curse.” (Deuteronomy 11:26) Moses and the Israelites were presented two mountains, one lush and one barren, with the lush mountain representing the fruitful lives awaiting them if they made the right choices, and the barren mountain symbolizing misery and failure.

We are presented with the same two mountains today.  When I drive downtown, which mountain do I see?  When I see curses, the journey is cumbersome and aggravating; I am not at my best.  When I see blessings, I am rewarded with peace and tranquility. 

Viewing the events of our lives as either blessings or curses will always be a challenge and a choice.  Let us choose to be thoughtful and kind, and may we choose to see blessings.

Jeff Clark is the Executive Director of Temple Beth Zion

The Blessing of Choice - Jewish thought of the week graphic