500.20 PURPOSE (pps.100-103)
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The purpose of man is to quest for his potentialities, spiritual, intellectual, and all other.385
My heart rages
Like a boiling pot,
Like a stormy sea.
I aspire for the heights,
For lofty visions
Fed by divine lights,
By souls hidden in the realms above.
I will not be bound in chains,
But I will bear a yoke;
I am a servant of God
But not a slave of slaves.
The purpose of each individual human is to seek his own particular potential, spiritual,387 intellectual, etc. (within moral parameters). Each person presumably has his own potentialities different from anyone else’s.388 To some extent man is thus not measured against an absolute, but rather against his own particular potentiality.389
The task of man has been defined by Luria . . . as the restoration of his primordial spiritual structure or Gestalt. That is the task of every one of us, for every soul contains the potentialities of this spiritual appearance outraged and degraded by the fall of Adam. whose soul contained all souls.
As Scholem indicates in the preceding passage, Lurianic Kabbalah sees man as trying to regain what he once lost, whereas our formulation views man as trying to reach fresh heights of spirituality. However, under either formulation man’s quest for spiritual potential remains a central task. Luria views this as the primary/preeminent task of man, and we see it as the foremost primal quest of man.
â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€” NOTES â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”-
385 See Greenberg, Perspectives: Voluntary Covenant, p. 17. “The purpose of the Jewish covenant is to realize the total possibility of being. It is not like a utilitarian contract designed to achieve limited ends where, if the advantage is lost, the agreement is dropped. The Jewish covenant is a commitment, out of faith, to achieve a final perfection of being.”
Cf. Luzzatto, Mesillat Yesharim, p. 335. “The deterrents to Holiness are a lack of true understanding and much association with people; for earthiness finds its counterpart and takes on new strength, and the soul remains trapped within it, unable to escape. However, when one dissociates himself from them and remains alone, preparing himself for the reception of His Holiness, he is conducted along the path which he wishes to travel; and. with the help that God gives him, his soul grows strong within him, overcomes his physical element, unites itself with the Holiness of the Blessed One and perfects itself in it. From this level one proceeds to an even higher one. that of The Holy Spirit, his understanding coming to transcend the bounds of human nature. It is possible for one to reach such a high degree of communion with God as to be given the key to the revival of the dead. as it was given to Elijah and Elisha.”
Cf. Luzzatto, The Way of God, p. 95. “. . .the purpose of the creation of the human species is that man should become worthy of attaining true good, namely, being drawn close to Him in the World to Come. . . .
“. . . This preparation involves two aspects, one concerning individuals, and the other, humanity as a whole. “The preparation of the individual is his attainment of perfection through his deeds. That of humanity as a whole involves the preparation of the entire human race for the World to Come.”
Cf. Kaplan, If You Were God, p. 75.
Cf. Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man, p. 96, citing Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, p. 199, and Buber, Prophetic Faith, pp. 102, 114. “This obligation under which man is placed is a great and fearful one, for it is nothing less than a call to perfection. ‘Walk before me and be perfect’ (Gen. 17:I), are the words in which Scripture records God’s injunction to Abraham, and his words to Abraham are his words to all of us. It is a call to holiness: ‘You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy’ (Lev. 19:2). IL is, in short, a call to the imitation of God.”
Cf. Moses Ibn Ezra, Arugat ha-Bosem, as cited in Stitskin, Eight Jewish Philosophers, p. 115. “. . . it behooves man to seek its wisdom. Plato supple- mented his definition of philosophy with the notion that the aim of philosophy is for man to become like God as far as possible.”
Cf. Hick, “Faith and Knowledge,” in idem, Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, p. 518. “But if we are right in supposing that God’s purpose for man is to lead him from human Bios, or the biologial life of man, to that quality of Zoe, or the personal life of eternal worth.”
Cf. Leibniz, Principles of Nature and Grace (1718), trans, from Philosophische Schrifien, ed. Gerhardt, VI, 606, in A. O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge, Mass., 1936), p. 248. “Our happiness will never consist but in a perpetual progress to new pleasures and new perfections.” As cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 48.
Note also the following viewpoints on the theme: A major current in Jewish thought is that the Torah is the purpose of creation. See Agus, The Evolution of Jewish Thought, p. 62.
“Man’s purpose on earth, they [the Essenes] postulated, is to refine his soul, keeping it pure from the taints of greed, lust and worldly ambition.” Ibid., p. 103. “Luzzatto defines the purpose of man’s life as being the attainment in the hereafter of the joy of ‘contemplating the radiance of the Shechinah, which is the one true joy.’ ” Ibid., p. 322, citing Iggerot Ramanal, 11,232.
“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
“Fear God, and keep His commandments; for that is the whole man” (Koheleth 12: 12-13).
“Man’s task is to make the world worthy of redemption.” Heschel, God in Search of Man, p. 380.
386 Bokser, Abraham Isaac Kook, p. 372.
387 See Stitskin on Abraham Ibn Ezra in Eight Jewish Philosophers, p. 121. “Once the soul perceived its own true nature it will apprehend how to actualize its potential by the power of intellection and come near to God.”
388 This is an important Hasidic theme.
389 Note Martin Luther’s comment,”No one is without some commission and calling.” J. N. Lenker, ed., The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther (Minneapolis, 1903). vol. 10, Church Postil Gospels: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Sermons, p. 243, as quoted in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 13. Thus in the theological debate concerning Noah’s righteousness, we would side with the “relativists.”
390 G. Scholem, Major Trends inJewish Mysticism p. 278. His note 105 reads as follows: “The idea is based on the mystical intepretation of an Aggadah on Adam, cf. Midrash Tanhuma, Parshat ki Tissa, #I2 and Exodus Rabba par. 40.”
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