What is the Purpose of Life?

Jewish thought answers with one word: pleasure.


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Comments (22)

(17) harry, May 23, 2013 9:08 AM

anybody who wants to know what the purpose of life is should study chassidic philosophy, "pleasure" is not the purpose of life, to become one with our Creator is- if that leads to pleasure then that's great but its not an end in itself...

Anonymous, November 23, 2014 10:02 AM

Completely agree. There is so much truth in chassidus and while G-d obviously doesn't NEED anything from us, you cannot disprove that he DESIRES* we do our best to light up the world with Godliness.

*a desire you cannot explain

(16) SusanE, March 5, 2012 7:59 PM

I Don't Understand Everything

So, seeking pleasure is seeking G-d? Seeking a way back to the Garden of pleasure? Finding a way to return to our original purpose and having Torah as our guide to get closer to there again? Making choices throughout our lives and receiving lasting pleasure or 'quick fix' pleasure defines how we did on the choices and if the choices we make bring us closer to G-ds purpose for us? There is a difference between Purpose in life and Meaning of life isn't there? Thank you for the video.

(15) Anonymous, January 13, 2012 3:05 AM

interesting idea not well explained

when you think about life you want the most true/real happiness because everything else is just second best. By thought and logic you get to the conclusion that God is the ultimate reality and the ultimate good and you want to get yourself closer to God (through knowledge of torah and science). Of course as one develops over time he will understand a bigger world picture and he will have humility and understand that it is the whole world that should be coming close to god. This is a good start but he doesn't describe what is this happiness. This is a good start but as one develops this should not be his driving force. Maimonides-the highest aim of man is knowledge of God

(14) Glenn, December 13, 2011 3:06 AM

One thing missing

The purpose of life is to Glorify G-d and to enjoy Him. He is the object not us.

(13) Anonymous, December 11, 2011 8:46 AM

The writer of Ecclesiastes, after denying himself no limits to the pleasure of this world, summed it up with "Revere God and observe His commandments." Rabbi Moshe Zeldman already would know and does that, and for all else who do, he then proceeds with his talk on pleasure. Adding there is a time for everything under the sun. The season of pleasure. 'When Lamech had lived 182 years, he begot a son. And he named him Noah, saying, "This one will provide us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands, out of the very soil that the Divine placed under a curse." Genesis 5:28' As Adam and Eve leave the garden, the Divine tells them the ground will yield thorns and thistles for them. When Noah was born, it was reversed and the ban was lifted and it became seedtime and harvest. At the birth of Noah, they received plows, scythes, hoes, and other tools for working the earth, and these tools made life easier. Which of course produces pleasure. Pleasure being the purpose of life, it's learning the secrets of Creation and the Creator to seek, know, receive, discover, find, and use the right tools to enter into rest(relief) from useless unprofitable toil; to sow wheat and reap wheat, not thorns and thistles. The birth of Noah (his name meaning 'rest') we can now say "the purpose of life is pleasure." To know wisdom. At the end of Ecclesiastes, Koheleth teaches what has been learned, "For this applies to all mankind: that God will call every creature to account for all their conduct, be it good or bad." Seedtime and Harvest, will always be, with the promise spoken, you plant corn, you'll reap corn. What you plant, you will reap. This encouraging speech, is to sow pleasure, out of wisdom, knowing you plant seeds of pleasure, you will reap pleasure, it's a guarantee promise, however, think about what it is you will be reaping from what you have planted before you plant.

(12) Phil, December 8, 2011 4:19 AM

clear

Mimi, above, writes: "The creation of life is certainly a gift to be appreciated by achieving happiness and fulfillment, but Rabbi Zeldman should be careful how he states it. " -- In my opinion, he was indeed careful.

(11) moshe, December 8, 2011 1:16 AM

While I deeply appreciate the fun loving and the inspired thought of this article, I feel that the person previous to this post, in saying that _Love_ is the purpose of life, true real love, loving G-d and all of creations, and to Quote Shlomo HaMelech from Koheles Fear G-d and Do His Commandments this the sum of life.

(10) Leslie, December 7, 2011 10:21 PM

Life, like all gifts, are to be enjoyed

I agree with Rabbi Zeldman. Life is the greatest gift of all. Gifts are given to bring pleasure to the recipient. It is difficult to behold creation and not find pleasure in it. The beauty and miracle of the universe, the genius of self-perpetuating living things, are deeply pleasurable manifestations of G-d expressed in the physical world. "Lihavdil", the taliban killed birds that made noise while children were learning the koran--a testament to their ignorance and backwardness. Love of G-d is delighting in his creation, and that is pleasure. Striving for pleasure also encourages us to find the "silver lining" during difficult times. This does not deter me from arguing with G-d on a regular basis about the poor performance of his human creations. But there is also pleasure in a relationship with G-d that allows room for disagreement.

(9) Mimi Tanaman, December 5, 2011 11:38 AM

Interpret with care

"Get pleasure" does seem a bit too simplistic and is open to misinterpretation since "pleasure" is often associated with physical sensation. I agree with the premise of the article but would state it differently. Instead of "get pleasure" I would say the purpose of life is to achieve happiness. The word happiness implies cognitive judgement rather than physical sensation. Happiness is tied up with satisfaction, with achieving values, with contributing to the happiness of those around you. The creation of life is certainly a gift to be appreciated by achieving happiness and fulfillment, but Rabbi Zeldman should be careful how he states it.

(8) smb, December 5, 2011 8:14 AM

We might wonder if G-d wants us to have pleasure then why have all these challenges. The challenges help us to grow. And the accomplishment of growth over time gives us pleasure

(7) Yael, December 5, 2011 4:16 AM

Problematic

this view of life's purpose is extremely problematic. First, it rids us of our responsibility towards our Creator. It allows someone to say "well, Hashem in His infinite wisdom told me that this is the way to get maximum pleasure but I wanna do my own thing" If your view was correct, that person would be a fool. However, that person is not only a fool, but also at fault with His Creator who commanded him to act a certain way, not suggested. Life is to build a relationship with Hashem. It happens to be that in the process of doing so, one achieves maximum enjoyment, but the purpose itself is not the pleasure- Is the relationship. We are responsible, we choose between good and evil, not between pleasurable and even more pleasurable. We are commanded to do Hashem's will whether we see the pleasure in it or not. The ultimate pleasure of living a Torah life is not always in this world, sometimes we have to wait until the world to come to appreciate it. When Adam did not fulfill his obligation towards Hashem, He expelled Adam from the garden.

(6) anonymous, December 5, 2011 2:26 AM

In our community had the distinct pleasure ;) of having Rabbi David Orlovsky stay iwth us and deliver wonderful and humorous lectures over Shabbos. He asked the question: "Why be Jewish?" The answer, "To bask in the pleasure of coming close to Hashem." So beautiful.

(5) ruth housman, December 5, 2011 2:22 AM

the pleasure principle

Life is a complex mix of pain and pleasure, and it could be said you cannot have the one, without the other. I am not sure the person dying of cancer is experiencing pleasure but certainly insights come from deep experiences, even those profoundly upsetting and disturbing. I think there is more to this than is immediately apparent, in positing pleasure alone as why we do what we do. But yes, people do derive sadistic pleasure from being cruel, and feelings of intimacy by being part of a group, even when the group aims are disciminating or worse. I would take issue with G_d had everything. I think we were not created because G_d was fulfilled, but rather that G_d was lonely and so G_d created a world. I find this explanation much more satisfying and true. I also see a story coded in words, across all languages, that does contain "the story", meaning for me, there is a code, and a key that unlocks this code, that is about us all and what we're doing here. It's in the aleph bet and traverses Babel and that code is deeply amazing, and beautiful, once perceived. We derive meaning, pleasure, for sure from acts of tikkun, and in life we have ample opportunity to help each other But that means some suffer, and that is not pleasure. It's a give and take relationship that does have depth. Life is lived on many layers, and the more we plumb these layers of existence, as we are gifted, the more we perceive of story, a supernal story that does wrap itself around all our lives, because we are ONE, and yet separate, and paradoxically part of the Whole, being G_d, an Inelligence that is greater than the sum of our parts. If I were to say what G_d is gifting us I would say it's about LOVE. And LOVE is a many splendored thing.

(4) Anonymous, December 5, 2011 1:34 AM

great,so simpel so true so grand and deep,thank you

same

(3) natan, December 4, 2011 7:07 PM

amazing!!!

so nice to see someone talking such nice words!

(2) Melanie Vliet, December 4, 2011 5:47 PM

Absurd!

If all that G-d wanted was for us to get pleasure, He would certainly not have given us even one commandment--much less 613. Doing what makes us happy comes naturally. What G-d wants is for us to choose to have a relationship with Him by obeying His commands, which are for the benefit of not only the one obeying but the rest of His creatures. We are to deny ourselves in favor of doing the right thing, as explained in the Bible--not by doing what comes naturally.

Daniel, December 4, 2011 11:38 PM

Obeying G-d gives us pleasure

Is there anything a person wouldn't give to be in a room with G-d? to meet Him, to talk to Him, to get to know Him? No, a person would give anything for that! Hashem's commandments are, like you said, the way we build a relationship with Him. If you see a righteous person you will understand that straight away, you see that this person is connected to The Infinite, a righteous person knows Hashem lkike he knows his own name, and when you see a righteous person smile you know that he or she is getting true pleasure from life when their smile fills the room

yael, December 5, 2011 2:53 PM

disagree

i disagree with the rabbi and also with you (i wrote a comment not sure when it'll get posted) It makes complete sense that He would give us commandments to enhance our happiness because the greatest happiness comes from limitations- for example, marriage is a greater happiness than a casual relationship, but marriage implies you cannot be with anyone else. Being a doctor is more fulfilling than being a truck driver, but to be a doctor you have to sit in school for years and years while the truck driver doesnt even need to go to college. The greatest happiness comes with achievement- only Hashem is smart enough to tell us where to limit ourselves to achieve the most meaningful achievements that will give us the most happiness. Still, as i said in my response, that is not the purpose of life in my understanding.

Anonymous, December 6, 2011 5:52 AM

one way to look at is is that the torah is the guiding way to access true and eternal pleasure.

Yael, December 6, 2011 1:56 PM

right- i agree- yet, this is a "byproduct" of the purpose of life, which is to develop a relationship with our Creator in His terms.

(1) Rosen, December 4, 2011 1:36 PM

obtaining happiness

Thanks for that uplifting video on life's purpose. It came right around the time where I have attempted to set a personal goal of being happy - prior to forming a relationship with a Jew who could be my bashert. Initially my previous goal was to find a meaningful relationship with a Jew, but then I figure happiness should come first since happiness really comes from within. When I post comments on Facebook pages that people click "Like" on, I like to view their profile so I can see a description of those who agree with me. On one's Facebook profile, her philosophy was "don't take life too seriously - it is only temporary" and another FB profile of someone said that when he was in school, he was given an assignment on what he wants to be when he grows up, where he said he wanted to be happy, and the teacher said, "I don't think you understand the assignment" and he said "I don't think you understand LIFE."...All in all, how much is happiness the ultimate goal in life, given that the purpose in life, at least at a Jewish standpoint, is pleasure?

 

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