Choice and change, two different things or two very similar ideas? Let us start by defining our terms: choice is the freedom to make a decision based on the merits of each factor; change is not just the coins we get back from the cashier, but it is when we transform ourselves to be different to how we started out.
I feel that the two are related. We have been given free choice, even babies have free choice though it is not obvious to us. How are these two ideas related? Like this, every action we do ultimately affects us. How so, you may ask? Not a single one of us is perfect and we are constantly faced with choices to make. For example, do we choose to lie in order to please the people around us and not get into an argument, or do we choose to be honest with ourselves and others even if it makes us uncomfortable? That is the essence of free choice, the chance to choose between right and wrong.
Yet there is another aspect to the idea of free choice that we sometimes forget about. That is the idea that every choice we make affects us. It affects our neshomas(souls). That is how choice and change are connected. Every time we choose not to lie, or to make that after-bracha, or to daven in the morning instead of sleeping in, our neshomas are elevated to another level. It works in reverse too. If we choose to sleep in instead of utilizing that time to daven, our neshoma does not get elevated.
Recently I had to make a choice in my own life. I have known for a long time now that I did not want television or movies in my home when I have children, but as a single girl I was still attached to the shows that I had grown up with. Even though I refrained from watching any new shows, and I stopped watching many shows that I felt were inappropriate, I still watched some. I also grew up reading, and as a young teenager I grew to enjoy romance novels, which once upon a time were a lot cleaner than those I picked up as an adult. So what’s the point here? I was dating a young man this summer who was not someone who had grown up with television but had picked up this habit later on in his life. Now I liked this young man, but as we got more and more serious, I realized we had a problem in that if we both watched television, that is what our home would be based upon instead of the Torah values that I had hoped for. It was at this point that I understood that if I wanted a husband who holds Torah in the highest esteem and lives his life that way, then it was up to me to make a change and choice in my own life. For I realized that the books that I was reading were affecting how I viewed the world, and the men in it. While I knew that books based on millionaires marrying the regular girl were not based on reality, I could not stop myself from looking for a strong man who would take care of me. So this summer I made a choice to change, to stop the television and the books. While it is not as much as a struggle as it once was, the desire is still there.
Everything we do, every choice we make, whether to be truthful or dishonest, will affect us, and generations to come. We have zechut avot ( merits of our forefathers), we have their spiritual DNA, but will we pass that on to our children if we continue to let our lives be polluted by all the wrong things? Everyone has their own challenges, and I am not here to tell you what to do, but rather to remind you that by every choice we make, we change ourselves. I shared my personal dilemma with you to show you that while change is difficult, it is not impossible as long as we will it.
I choose to follow the path of Torah and to work on myself so that my children will grow up with holiness rather than the tantalizing falseness of television. Let’s join together in working on ourselves to become better and holier people.