2

I originally asked this- Feeling overwhelmed with too much teshuva to do and I've realised that there is a more basic question that I should have asked.

What are we supposed to achieve during our lives? Have we failed if we're not keeping every halacha and we've not done teshuva for every aveira? That's the terms that I'm thinking of it in, and there are plenty of stories of people apparently being reincarnated to fix things that their neshamah didn't do or did wrong in a previous life.

Maybe that's not a problem though - maybe we're not supposed to do everything in 1 life and maybe we're supposed to need a few to get it all done? Still, I can't imagine that many people ever finish their lives without having added some more mess to fix for the next time around. Surely we can't all be doomed to keep going round and round fixing the previous lives' problems and adding more?

I feel like in Elul/RH/YK, it isn't enough to just think about the teshuva that is in front of me - I need to know what I should be aiming for long term (assuming I have a longer term than that - who knows!)

6
  • 3
    No-one is created perfect - we all have our flaws. As Jews we should be aspiring to grow. It is not something that can happen overnight, but neither should we feel like we have failed if we stumble in some areas. If a person is aspirationally seeking to grow and become close to G-d, Hashem knows that we have the right intentions, even if we are not yet the finished article.
    – Dov
    Sep 19 at 16:06
  • 1
    According to Maimonides study the science.
    – Turk Hill
    Sep 19 at 17:54
  • @TurkHill I know that Rambam put do you have a source for what we're supposed to achieve during our lives? Sep 23 at 12:40
  • @MosesSupposes Hi. According to Maimonides, Aristotle, and other deists, the goal of each person is to study nature, the sciences. Rambam brings this down when he explains the "image of G-d" to mean the intellectual faculties. In other words, he is saying that to think is like G-d because G-d is all-wise. And what better to study than the works of G-d, natural laws?
    – Turk Hill
    Sep 29 at 21:05
  • @MosesSupposes He also seems to say that the perfection of the mind with the study of both philosophy and science is how to achieve well-lived life and an entrance into the afterlife. Although we should not do so only because it leads to a better life in the next world.
    – Turk Hill
    Sep 29 at 21:07

2 Answers 2

3

According to Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his work Mesilat Yesharim (1:26) the primary purpose of man is to:

fulfill the commandments, serve [G-d] and stand up to trials.

In 1952, people asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe "What is the purpose (תכלית) of life?". The Rebbe answered them:

To bring light (ליכטיקייט) into the world.

Similary, the Rebbe states:

When one has ליכטיקייט then he will have found the תכלית. A person cannot feel that which he lacks. One looks for what he does not possess. If he had what he was lacking for he would not search.

On 20 Adar 1, in the year 5711 (26th February 1951), the Rebbe writes in one of his many letters to a person, what exactly is our purpose in life. The first lines are the most important to this specific question:

The life’s purpose of every Jew, man or woman, has been clearly defined as far back as the Revelation at Mount Sinai more than 32 and a half centuries ago, when we received the Divine Torah and became a nation. We were than ordained as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This means that every one of us must be holy in our private life, and in our association with the outside world every one of us, man or woman, must fulfill priestly functions. The priest’s function is to “bring” G‑d to the people, and to elevate the people to be nearer to G‑d. Similarly, every Jew and Jewess fulfills their personal and “priestly” duties by living a life according to the Torah.

The extent of one’s duty is in direct proportion to one’s station in life. It is all the greater in the case of an individual who occupies a position of some prominence, which gives him, or her, an opportunity to exercise influence over others, especially over youths. Such persons must fully appreciate the privilege and responsibility which Divine Providence vested in them to spread the light of the Torah and to fight darkness wherever and in whatever form it may rear its head.

This is your duty and privilege as one of the student officers in relation to your coreligionist colleagues and student body in general. I would also like to convey this message to your colleagues in the JCF. You are all no doubt aware of this, but perhaps there is room for added emphasis and the conviction that “it cannot be otherwise.”

See also: Likkutei Sichos, Volume 15, Bereishis, Sicha 3 (a text-based translation and study can be found here).

But, back to your question: what are we supposed to achieve in our lifes? The Rebbe explains that we are supposed to be "priests". "We must fulfill priestly functions. The priest’s function is to “bring” G‑d to the people, and to elevate the people to be nearer to G‑d. Similarly, every Jew and Jewess fulfills their personal and “priestly” duties by living a life according to the Torah.". That is our purpose in life, and that we are supposed to achieve. Also to be a light unto the nations and spreading G-ds holy word, His Torah.

And through Torah and Mitzvot the person transforms his desire to receive into a desire to give, and becomes a "receiver in order to give". That person can now receive all the goodness from G-d, and at the same time have a strong connection with Him, because through Torah and Mitzvot he has acquired similarity of form to his Creator. This stage is called " the last state of tikun", or " the thought of creation". Now there is no longer a need for the impure "other side". When this occurs, "death will be no more". Being diligent in Torah and Mitzvot during these "6000 years" and in a person's lifetime, is for them to attain this final stage.

1

We have been brought into this world to praise G-d and make the world a better place.

As it says in Pirkei Avot 2:16

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, yet you are not free to desist from it

In other words, try your best, put in effort to be a good person and study Torah, but don't beat yourself up. Each of us are born into different circumstances with unique traits, and keeping Jewish laws is a life-long journey that evolves over time.

Keep in mind that during the month of Elul it is much easier to access G-d (the King is in the field, is a common term). When focusing on teshuva, it is important to incorporate love and acceptance of the past along with self-improvement.

1
  • 2
    Good answer. You might want to consider including the idea that in terms of judgment, all Israel are mixed together and “sweetened” too. This is tangibly evident at Neilah on Yom Kippur, the crescendo of the day. Rambam also explains this in Hilchot Teshuva in the Mishneh Torah and how the judgement is actually executed. This is also touched on by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato in the 1st section of Derech HaShem. Sep 19 at 19:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .