We know that hashem created the whole world only for the purpose of human's on earth. Everything else is there for his benefit to obtain his purpose. So the question is, what real purpose does he have. And do all human beings have the same purpose. Let us be more specific. Women's purpose is mainly to help the man obtain his. Some men may also be in this category to help other men obtain theirs. But what is the 'top' purpose for a man to have. Is it to learn Torah or is this only a way of reaching a higher 'real' one.
סוֹף דָּבָר הַכֹּל נִשְׁמָע אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים יְרָא וְאֶת מִצְוֹתָיו שְׁמוֹר כִּי זֶה כָּל הָאָדָם
The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.
and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man: Because, for this matter, the entire man was created.
וזה כל האדם ותכלית בריאתו ובריאת כל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים להיות לו דירה זו בתחתונים
This in fact is the whole [purpose] of man, and the purpose for which he, and all the worlds, both upper and lower, were created: that G‑d should have such a dwelling-place here below.
Man’s faith in the unity of G‑d fulfills this goal. For when G‑d’s unity is revealed in the mind and heart of men, this world becomes an abode for G‑d; He is revealed there just as one reveals himself completely in his own home.
From Likutei Amarim Tanya of HaRav Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of Tanya and Shulchan Aruch Harav.
Just had a learning of this the other day when my Rabbi referenced the Vilna Gaon..
Here it is...
The entire service of G-d is rooted in refinement of middos. If not, of what purpose is life (Vilna Gaon)
Different phrasing with concrete source [Beur HaGra to Mishlei 4:13]:
Overcoming negative character traits is the essence and purpose of life.
So everyone has to constantly work on improving and overcoming his/her own unique character flaws that they are either born with or acquired is the purpose.
The purpose of life is to serve Hashem...but for one to truly do that that is what one must do.
The Rambam says in the Moreh Nevuchim (3:51-52) that the main purpose of all the commandments is to arrive at deep fear (awareness) of G-d at all times
here's a short excerpt see there from 3:51-52 in Karfach hebrew version
"If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God" (Deut. xxviii. 58). Consider how clearly it is stated here that the only object and aim of "all the words of this law" is to [make man] fear "the glorious and fearful name.
on the other hand, according to Rabbi Chaim Vital the main goal is (Etz Chaim hakdama daf 13):
"And not only that but man was created only to delve into the depths of the torah. But this requires that his body (and lower soul) be clean first, through the action of the mitzvos whose entire purpose is for this and are therefore necessary. Then the neshama (higher soul) which is called the candle of G-d (Prov 20:27), will be capable of illuminating this body, like a candle inside a glass container, which shines through, and it gives him the power to understand secrets of the torah and it reveals depths from within the darkness.
there's a Bach commentary on the shulchan aruch along the same lines regarding why the temple was destroyed. if anyone can add the source.
In his introduction to Nefesh haChaim, Rav Itzele (Yitzchaq) Volozhiner recalls about his father (and the author), Rav Chaim:
והיה רגיל להוכיח אותי על שראה שאינני משתתף בצערא דאחרינא. וכה היה דברו אלי תמיד שזה כל האדם. לא לעצמו נברא רק להועיל לאחריני ככל אשר ימצא בכחו לעשות.
He regularly rebuked me, because he saw that I did not participate in the pain of others. And these were his constant words to me: This is the entire person. One is not created for himself, but to benefit others with the full extent of his powers.
This is the founder of the Yeshiva Movement, and yet he defines the purpose of creation not in terms ofTorah study, but as "להועיל לאחריני - to benefit others"! (He is also responsible for the split-off from the Yeshiva Movement, Mussar, but that is not surprising from this quote.)
Similarly, to quote the opening words of Rav Shimon Shkop's introduction to Shaarei Yosher:
יתברך הבורא ויתעלה היוצר שבראנו בצלמו ובדמות תבניתו, וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו, שיהיה אדיר חפצנו, להיטיב עם זולתנו, ליחיד ולרבים בהוה ובעתיד בדמות הבורא כביכול, שכל מה שברא ויצר היה רצונו יתברך רק להיטיב עם הנבראים, כן רצונו ית׳ שנהלך בדרכיו כאמור “והלכת בדרכיו”, היינו שנהיה אנחנו בחירי יצוריו, מגמתנו תמיד להקדיש כוחותינו הגופניים והרוחניים לטובת הרבים, כפי ערכנו,...
Blessed shall be the Creator, and exalted shall be the Maker, Who created us in His 'Image' and in the likeness of His 'Structure', and planted eternal life within us [i.e. gave us the Torah], so that our greatest desire should be to do good to others, to individuals and to the masses, now and in the future, in imitation of the Creator (as it were).
For everything He created and formed was according to His Will (may it be blessed), [that is] only to be good to the creations. So too His Will is that we walk in His ways. As it says “and you shall walk in His Ways” (Devarim 28:9) – that we, the select of what He made – should constantly hold as our purpose to sanctify our physical and spiritual powers for the good of the many, according to our abilities.
Note that this answer could be taken as his definition of what it means "to fix / establish the world as His kingdom" (לתקן\לתכן עולם במלכות שד-י) or to give Him a home in this world, or to sanctify this world (the latter definitely, as the intro continues "In my opinion, this whole concept is included in Hashem’s mitzvah “Be holy, [for I am Holy]....”), etc...
Mesillat Yesharim (ch. 11) implies that Torah study is a means to an end:
כפי רבות חשיבותו וחכמתו כן ראוי שירבה זהירותו בדברי העבודה ודקדוקו בה, ואם איננו עושה כן, הרי שם שמים מתחלל בו חס וחלילה, כי כבוד התורה הוא, שמי שמרבה הלימוד בה ירבה כמו כן ביושר ובתיקון המדות
This could similarly be inferred from the whole structure of Mesillat Yesharim which explicates Pinchas Ben Yair's statement which begins: "Torah leads to zehirut (carefulness)..." That is, all of the levels of Avodah (divine service) described by the Mesillat Yesharim are meant to stem from Torah learning. Thus, the implication, is that the role of Torah is as a means to an end.
מכאן אמר רבי פינחס בן יאיר: "תורה מביאה לידי זהירות, זהירות מביאה לידי זריזות, זריזות מביאה לידי נקיות, נקיות מביאה לידי פרישות, פרישות מביאה לידי טהרה, טהרה מביאה לידי חסידות וכו
This could be inferred from the Talmud's statement (Kiddushin 40b) that study is primary (relative to acts) since the study facilitates activity. The role of Torah seems to be a means to an end.
נענו כולם ואמרו תלמוד גדול שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה
It seems reasonable to assume that these ends are the purpose of Man, and by extension, the creation of the world, and this could be inferred from the Mesillat Yesharim's opening which frames the achievement of the ladder structure of levels, of his work as being the point of the creation of Man.
שהאדם לא נברא אלא להתענג על ה' ולהנות מזיו שכינתו שזהו התענוג האמיתי והעידון הגדול מכל העידונים שיכולים להמצא וכו
All these answer represent different facets, aspects, perspectives, etc. Explaining life can be divided into many dual categories for the purpose of dialectics. The first thing I was taught in yeshivah was to be mesudar.1
There is the external purpose of life and the internal meaning to that purpose of life. We know already Hashem’s purpose and meaning of life, viz., to dwell here on earth in a manner that His creations willingly and wantingly accept His sovereignty (ana emloch2).3 For an All-Powerful being, whose sparkle of a glimmer of a ray of a beam of His light will mevatl any sense of free will, there can be nothing higher than His creations elevating themselves4 consciously5 by eradicating negative middot6 in the pursuit of finishing Creation as a partner kaviyakol.7
Without elaborating any further, our purpose is also two-fold. Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of the wise, giving 3,000 masholim for each of his teachings,8 explains the purpose of life in two of his official sefarim9.
Mishlei is from the feminine aspect (though the astute reader will note that the audience is directed towards men)10 and Kohelet is from the masculine aspect. This is why Kohelet begins with vanity11 of vanities12 and ends with the sof davar to fear G-d and guard13 the mitzvot which Rashi explains as doing what you can and let your heart be directed toward heaven. This is re-characterized from Moshe Rabeinu who enjoined the shamira upon the whole nation to guard14 the mitzvot, both the eidot and the chukim,15 concluding that we must do what is upright and good in the eyes (or Ain-level) of Hashem. However, this is why we need a King in heaven, as opposed to earth, as Shmuel lamented at the end of Shoftim.
Therefore, Mishlei begins with the feminine wisdom16 and ends praising a good woman who fears G-d (but nothing of the mitzvot per se). Fear is greater than wisdom and understanding17,18 yet the two are intertwined.
Fear is the final completion of everything.19
The Mishnah Avot 3:17 refers to two levels of fear. The first statement — “If there is no fear, there is no wisdom” — refers to the lower level of fear, yirah tata‘ah. Without this level of fear, it is impossible to attain wisdom, i.e., the performance of Torah and mitzvot20. (This is deemed wisdom, since the ultimate purpose of wisdom is repentance and good deeds.) The second statement — “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear” — refers to the higher level of fear, yirah ila’ah. This level of fear must be preceded by wisdom21, i.e., the performance of Torah and mitzvot. Only thus is one able to attain the higher level of fear.22
However, this only explains the purpose as can be seen by the externalities of good deeds and such. The meaning behind this is to establish a Dira Betachtonim which is intimately tied up with the One:23
“The purpose for which this world was created is that the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to have an abode in the lower worlds.”24
This is His purpose25. We do not have an independent meaning to life.26 Man is not meant to live alone27.28 I dare say it is impossible to exist without impacting another’s life29. Even the peirush Rabbi Avraham the Malach had several fires happen upon him.30 We exist for subservience of the other,31 developing avodas Hashem32 b'simchah,33 lest one comes to yeshus.34 Ultimately, we only have bechira in matters for or against Hashem.35
1 - Accord Midrash Tanchuma, Bo 2:2 (explaining Iyov 10:22 that man must systematize his studies when he is about to enter the shadow of death); see Sichot HaRan #12 (our avodah of tefillah is the aspect of the korban); cf., Jerusalem Talmud, Brachot 9:5 (David slayed his yetzer hara).
3 - Accord Zohar, Parshat Bo, 42b (“…in order that there be creatures that will know Him in every measure by which He directs His world, with kindness and with judgment, according to the acts of humankind. For if His light would not spread to each of His creations, how would He be known? In what way would be fulfilled, ‘All the earth is filled with His glory’?”).
5 - Sichot HaRan #51.
7 - See Akeidat Yitzchak 64:1:4.
8 - Selections From Torah Or and Likkutei Torah: Festivals, Ner Mitzvah: Chanukah – Sec. IV (explaining I Melachim 5:12).
9 - The other two surreptitious titles also seem to follow this pattern – Wisdom of Solomon is primarily masculine, while Ben Sirach anthropomorphizes wisdom as feminine, focusing on fear – albeit from the perspective of gashimiyut (vis-à-vis the above pair concerning ruchiniyut).
11 - Hevel is pretty much an onomatopoeia. The hey is quiescent, an aspirant, a wisp of air. Simply exhaling the breath of life would be the best manner of translating hevel. All the wealth and honor are for naught. See Rabbeinu Yonah on Pirkei Avot 3:1:2.
12 - See Shaarei Teshuvah 2:20.
13 - Accord Shev Shmat'ta, Intro., 31-32.
14 - Ramban on Shemot 20:8 argues that Zachor for Shabbos is achieved through love but Shamor is achieved through fear. I would say Shamor also alludes to fear here. If lishmor is fear, then la’asot is through love. See Moshe’s final words in Devarim 32:46. This would equate the lishmor to the lo ta’aseh corresponding to the 365 limbs and the aseh to the 248 bones.
15 - Hirsch on Devarim 6:17.
16 - I.e., Daat. Without the act of creation, all of G d’s infinite perfections lie in a state of potential. Etz Chaim, Shaar HaHakdamot, Hakdama 3. For a created being, what is potential is not actual. But Above, this is not so: Potential is not lacking actuality. Potential and actual exist as one. Sefer Hamaamarim 5666; see also Likkutei Sichot vol. 6, pp. 18-25). Talmud Torah leads to a unity of daat, finalizing creation.
17 - Or, in the feminine context, greater than the initial chinuch and later limud.
20 - "And not only that but man was created only to delve into the depths of the Torah. But this requires that his body (and lower soul) be clean first, through the action of the mitzvos whose entire purpose is for this and are therefore necessary. Then the neshama (higher soul) which is called the candle of G-d (Prov 20:27), will be capable of illuminating this body, like a candle inside a glass container, which shines through, and it gives him the power to understand secrets of the Torah and it reveals depths from within the darkness.” Etz Chaim, hakdama, daf 13. However, Torah is the means to the end. Mesillat Yesharim (ch. 11); Kiddushin 40b. This is accomplished through mitzvos. See Handbook of Jewish Thought 5:54 (sources cited in book). The order appears to be mitzvos (naaseh v’nishma), middos (per the Gra), Talmud Torah (gan – Shir HaShirim 5:1 – is the 53 parshiyos of Torah & Tanya), daas (creating a reshus ha-yachid - see The Divine and the Human in Torah by Yanki Tauber, ch. 10), and then yirah (ila’ah). There is a back-and-forth bitush here via teshuvah. See Handbook of Jewish Thought, vol. 2, 15:8 ff.
21 - In other words, fear of Heaven, which corresponds to the feet, creates an engraving and conduit in order to receive the lovingkindness. Likutei Moharan, Pt. II 4:4:1. The heel here refers to the latter half of Ya’akov – eikev. Shenei Luchot HaBerit, Torah Shebikhtav, Toldot, Torah Ohr 42; see Derush Chidushei HaLevana 6:1:18 (connecting all these concepts).
22 - Quoted mutatis mutandis from Likutei Amarim, ch. 43.
24 - Likkutei Amarim — Tanya, ch. 36, paraphrasing Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Naso, sec. 16; see the Alter Rebbe's concluding words in Iggeret HaKodesh 20; see also To Live and Live Again, Ch. 2: The Purpose of Creation.
25 - G-d’s desire or meaning in creation was that G-d's creations ultimately will recognize G-d's unity and overcome evil; this will constitute the perfection (tikkun olam) of creation. While the Jews have the Torah now and are aware of G-d's unity, some believe that when all of humanity recognizes this fact, the rectification will be complete. Derech Hashem, II:4:6-7.
26 - See Guide for the Perplexed, Bk. III, Ch. 13.
27 - "Blessed shall be the Creator, and exalted shall be the Maker, Who created us in His 'Image' and in the likeness of His 'Structure', and planted eternal life within us [i.e. gave us the Torah], so that our greatest desire should be to do good to others, to individuals and to the masses, now and in the future, in imitation of the Creator (as it were). [Note the double verb in Devarim 6:17.]
For everything He created and formed was according to His Will (may it be blessed), [that is] only to be good to the creations. So too His Will is that we walk in His ways. As it says “and you shall walk in His Ways” (Devarim 28:9) – that we, the select of what He made – should constantly hold as our purpose to sanctify our physical and spiritual powers for the good of the many, according to our abilities."
28 - Accord Rabbi Yitzchak’s intro. to Nefesh HaChaim, trans. in Nefesh HaTzimtzum, pp. 82-3 (“He regularly rebuked me, because he saw that I did not participate in the pain of others. And these were his constant words to me: This is the entire person. One is not created for himself, but to benefit others with the full extent of his powers.”).
29 - I am reminded of the quite American aphorism variously ascribed over the years: “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” “Freedom of Speech in War Time” by Zechariah Chafee, Jr., publ. in Harvard Law Review (June, 1919). It takes two to tango.
30 - There are several biographies. See here.
31 - See Ohr Yisrael 22.
32 - Shaarei Teshuvah 3:148.
33 - See Letter of the Rebbe, 10th of Kislev, 5714
35 - See Handbook of Jewish Thought by Rabbi Kaplan, 3:16 ff. (sources cited in the book).
- Keep Mitzvot
- Not only your own mitzvot but also help others keep theirs.
Non-Jews keep their 7 mitzvot and also can help Jews to keep theirs and also sustain the earth and the animal kingdom. Not one of the sheva mitzvot b'nei noach as such but part of the world order.
Women's role is also obviously to keep the mitzvot that apply to them and whilst p'ru ur'vu is not a direct command to them due to the pain (and previously the danger) involved it is also part (but not their entire) purpose.
- Learn Torah for its own sake (i.e. not just to know how to keep mitzvot). This 3rd part applies to Jews only, non-Jews only need to learn the parts of Torah that apply to them.
With regards to sources, Rambam's Mishnah Torah is probably the most likely to cover this subject but obviously it is very widespread and I don't have specific references.
We say in Aleinu everyday- Letaken Olam B'malchut. we are put in this world for tikkun olam.
Lurianic Kabbalah has also been used to explain the role of prayer and ritual action in tikkun olam. According to this vision of the world, God contracted part of God's self into vessels of light to create the world. These vessels shattered and their shards became sparks of light trapped within the material of creation. Prayer, especially contemplation of various aspects of the divinity (sephirot), releases these sparks and allows them to reunite with God's essence, bringing them closer to a fixed world. According to Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his book Derech Hashem, the physical world is connected to spiritual realms above that influence the physical world, and furthermore, Jews have the ability, through physical deeds and free will, to direct and control these spiritual forces. God's desire in creation is that God's creations ultimately will recognize God's unity and overcome evil; this will constitute the perfection (tikkun) of creation. While the Jews have the Torah now and are aware of God's unity, some believe that when all of humanity recognizes this fact, the rectification will be complete.
Fortunate are you, in seeking the highest purpose. Actually when you asked it you were attaining it.
Because the essence is the will, as explained below; therefore aspiring toward the highest purpose is the essence of the highest purpose. Each person should aspire to serve Hashem and should make choices according to his soul and circumstances. Thus R' Nachman emphasizes his whole business is prayer (not just the formal but also informal hitbodedut alone time with God); that's where a person can seek and clarify his purpose to attain yeshuv hada'at, a purpose-settled mind.; and the essence of serving H' lies in cases when a man has choices, and here he is assailed by confusions which when he strives or cuts through them they are in the aspect of korbanot Sichot Haran #12. Virtually all the works of R' Nachman of Breslev address this topic in many ways and many aspects; below is a more direct one. I've outlined Sichot Haran #51 into seven points:
To not be upset whether one has money or not. A man and his money never remain together.
This world only exists to bring about [God's] eternal purpose. There is no need to be upset whether one has money or not. Because either way he could waste away his days, for this world distracts us entirely. For it keeps displaying to a man as if he'll prosper, but in the end it's nothing. As one can see tangibly, with most people who are busy and toiling days and years in wares or commerce, and in the end when they come to reckoning there's nothing in their hands at all. Even if he attains money they remove him from his money. So the rule is the both of them do not stay together, that is, the man and the money. Rather, either they take the money from the man, or the man from the money. Never is it found that a person stays together with his money; it's only as mentioned above. Also, where is all the money he has ever made? For people are always making money, and where is all this money? Rather, it's totally, really nothing.
To have the will and aspiration to serve Hashem.
Serving H'? I don't know anyone who can say he's serving H', considering the Blessed Creator's greatness. Who knows any bit of His Blessed Greatness? I don't know how one can say he serves the Blessed One. Nor can any angel or seraf boast of serving the Blessed One. Just the main thing is the will, that his will should be strong and powerful to constantly draw close to the Blessed One. Nevertheless not all wills are equal and there are great differences between wills. Even in one man himself, each time and moment there are great differences between wills. The rule is the main thing is the will and aspirations, to always aspire to the Blessed One, and within this he prays, learns and does mitzvot. (Really, according to the Blessed One's greatness all these devotions are all nothing but "purported," for it's all like just a joke, vis a vis His Blessed greatness. In Yiddish, kloymirsht/ purported.)
Simplicity and newness each time.
Also chokhmot (sophistications, unnecessary complexity) are nothing; just temimut [purity, wholesomeness] and simplicity [are all you need]. Even though in temimut it's forbidden to be a fool, still nonetheless chokhmot are entirely unneeded, and as brought elsewhere (see LM II #19, 44). Also it's not good to be old. An old chasid, or an old tzaddik, old is not good! Because one needs to be new every day, starting anew at all times. Only, there is something that improves with age: Namely, "the other thing" [a pig] gets stronger with age, as our Rabbis obm said (Shabbat 77b).
Abandon is unnecessary, but be indifferent to worldly affairs.
Also hefkerut [detachment, abandon] is unneeded, even though really I don't call it hefkerut at all, on the contrary just the opposite: when someone pursues affairs of this world and is far from His Blessed service, this is the true mufkar. Nevertheless what the world calls hefkerut, namely one who abandons all the affairs of this world, one and all, and delves only in serving H', which this is what the world calls hefkerut, this too is unneeded, for one can be a kosher man without hefkerut.
Take this from me: Don't leave yourself to the world, to get led astray. Let the world not distract you, for there's not one person who will have a good end and conclusion from the world. And all mankind who ever existed, even those who grasped with their hands this whole entire world, their end was very bad; moreover through the ages they declined and lost. And even nations of the world need to know about this: since this world is nothing, what do they need to do? For this they need Heavenly assistance, to be privileged to know what they need to do. But Yisrael don't need this, for we already know what to do, by the Torah.
Seek the very greatest Tzaddik and settle for none other.
The world says one needn't seek greatness. But I say one needs specifically seeking greatness -- seek and look specifically for the very greatest Tzaddik. And this is already explained in the books (LM #30), that it's necessary to seek precisely the very greatest Tzaddik and Rebbe.
Cravings don't truly exist -- you only have to do what you need, so that's not called craving; the rest is easy to dispel by actualizing a little bit of the potential wisdom everyone is given.
Standing up to all the cravings that encumber a man, is the truth that cravings don't exist at all. For eating and drinking are needed for bodily sustenance, also children must be born; all these a man must do. Consequently, there are no cravings at all, only one needs to conduct oneself with them in sanctity and purity. A man's intellect can stand up to all the cravings, for the Holy Blessed One "yehiv chokhmata lechakimin/gives wisdom to the wise" (Dan. 2:21). For everyone has potential wisdom. He just needs to bring [it] out from potential to actuality, and with this intellect alone that each person has in his wisdom's potential, namely what he has from his very creation, aside from what Hashem Yithbarakh gives in addition wisdom to the wise, with the power of his wisdom alone he can also stand up against the cravings. And even someone who is already drawn after the cravings of this world and has transgressed whatever he's transgressed and his intellect is damaged, confused and reduced, nevertheless with the little bit of intellect that remains he can also stand. Even one point of intellect can stand up to the entire world and its cravings. So in whatever place he's located he can be nigh to Hashem Yithbarakh. And see elsewhere (v. LM II:7,65) about this, that even in lowest hell God forbid one can draw close to His Blessedness and serve the Blessed One in truth.
By Divine compassion and/or great efforts and devotions, to settle down the yeast in your brain until you know it's all the same: this world, the grave, `Olam haBa.
He spoke up and said: For this, either one needs great compassion from Hashem Yithbarakh, or effort and devotions, or one needs both of them: great efforts in serving H' and also great compassion from His Blessedness, before one is privileged that his brain's yeast settles and quiets down, until he wants absolute nothing in the world and to be indifferent to it all. "Behith'hallekha tancheh othkha, beshokhbekha tishmor 'aleikha, wahakitzotha hi tesichekha/ When you walk it will lead you, when you lie down it will guard you; and when you awake it will chat with you" (Prov. 6:22). Meaning, it's all the same. There is no difference between this world, the grave, and 'Olam haBa. For Behith'hallekha tancheh othkha is the Torah. So too is beshokhbekha tishmor 'aleikha, as there where you lie in the grave, there too is Hashem Yithbarakh and the Torah. So too Wahakitzotha / you awake to 'Olam haBa etc. (Sotah 21). For since there's no craving or desire at all for anything, only Hashem Yithbarakh and the Torah, hence all is equal to him, whether in this world or in the grave or in 'Olam haBa. In all of them he cleaves only to Hashem Yithbarakh and the Torah. For any person who is connected to this world, there is a difference between this world which is wider than you can stretch your hands, and the grave which is a tight space and so forth. But whoever's brain is purified and has no yeast in his brain, it's all equal to him, as mentioned above.
One more thing: [R' Nachman z"l] said explicitly, "Any person in the world can attain the utterly highest level. Because this depends on nothing else but the person's free will alone... Shivchei Haran #26