During the course of a lifetime we make many choices. Even small children are taught from very early on to master the art of making choices. For example, we might ask a child, “Do you want to clean up your toys before or after dinner?” or “Do you want a bedtime story or a bedtime song?”
Obviously, we try to make good decisions and make the right choices, but that isn’t always an easy task. At times we must make a choice under pressure. And sometimes we must make a choice in a split second, like trying to avoid a car accident on the road, G-d forbid. We don’t even notice how many times a day we are making decisions and choices.
The act of choosing and deciding actually determines our very existence from the time we are born. It is written in our holy books that before the soul of a person comes into this world, it actually chooses which parents the person will have. The neshama sees the life it will go through down on earth and still chooses to come here and live that life with all it entails.
Why is it important to take note of our choices? Good decisions make way for better things, and bad choices and decisions can lead to real destruction and dismay. At the beginning of time, Adam and Eve made decisions that affected the entire world until the end of time. On the other hand, there are decisions that have almost no significance and make almost no difference whatsoever – for example, if I’m in the grocery store and decide to buy apples or oranges.
The more natural something is, the less attention we pay to it. Every morning we get up and take care of the morning routine almost by rote. Sometimes we even daven by rote, without focusing on the words. Do we stop each morning to think what a true miracle it is to breathe and just be alive? It’s “natural,” so we don’t pay any attention, not even giving it another thought. If Heaven forbid someone gets sick and loses his health, then he does stop each moment and thank Hashem for the health he still has left and notices every move he makes, which at that point no longer comes so naturally to him. When we get used to something, we might not realize its importance at all. And only if it is taken away do we stop and think about how lucky we actually were.
If we put conscious effort into the choices that we make daily, we might make different choices than the ones we make so fast and without even giving them a second thought. By stopping to think of the importance of the decision, we might save ourselves a lot of trouble from the wrong choices that we make. You don’t have to be the president or a leader to affect many people. If you decide to smile at someone, you can affect that person’s whole day, making her happier, and then she might smile to her family or co-workers and so on. With one smile you hardly thought about, you will have made a lot of people happier.
We are approaching the holiday of Passover – a time of great joy. A moment in history that we mention each and every day in our prayers and one that will never be forgotten. The Jewish nation came out of slavery and hardship over 2,000 years ago to go and worship Hashem as a nation as never before. Did we have a choice to make in order to come out of slavery and worship G-d as a whole nation?
Yes, each and every Jew had a choice to make. It’s written in the Torah that only a fifth of the Jewish people who were in Egypt came out and were redeemed. It seems like a foolish question – who wouldn’t want to be redeemed? And yet only a fifth of the people actually chose to listen to Hashem and to his servant Moshe Rabbeinu, and to be led out of Egypt to worship G-d. It says in the haggadah that we will read on the Seder night that each and every one of us must see ourselves as if we left Egypt. We must see ourselves in those Jews who chose to leave and go into the desert and the unknown, and to blindly follow G-d and his faithful servant Moshe.
But there are still a lot of choices that need to be made before we all sit at our Passover table all dressed up and ready, and imagining that we too left Egypt. We must remember that Pesach cleaning is not spring cleaning, and we mustn’t forget what’s important and what’s just dust and not chametz at all. We should decide what is important to concentrate on and what is trivial. That way we can approach the holiday with love and joy and have the understanding of what Pesach is all about, and not just come to it exhausted from the cleaning.
May all our choices and decisions always be the right ones, and may the effect of our choices always be good for us and for all those who surround us.