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Is There Life on Other Planets?

Is There Life on Other Planets?

The Jewish view on UFOs, aliens and extraterrestrial intelligence

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Question:

Someone told me that according to Judaism, human beings are the only conscious beings in the universe. Is there any basis to this?

Response:

Certainly not!

First of all, the sages discuss the fact that animals also feel pain, based on the biblical prohibition against causing them undue suffering.

Second, there are plenty of accounts in the Torah of the higher angels, who are conscious of a realm of reality far beyond ours.

Third, Maimonides and others write about the heavenly bodies as conscious beings—and not simply in an allegorical sense. If anyone should ask, “How can a ball of helium and hydrogen contain consciousness?” simply ask in return, “And that a warm mass of gray meat has consciousness is reasonable?”

The uniqueness of humankind is not our consciousness, but the way that consciousness is able to enter the realms of good and evil, make decisions and distinguish between them.

Sources in Torah

The Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out that there is support in Torah for the notion that life exists on other planets. Furthermore, we can know something about that life through deduction from what the Torah tells us. Here is his argument:

In the Book of Judges (5:23), Deborah the prophetess sings about the victory of Barak over Sisera. In her song, she says, “Cursed be Meroz! Cursed, cursed be its inhabitants, says the angel of G‑d!”

Where is Meroz, and who are its inhabitants? The Talmud gives two explanations, one of them being that Meroz is a star or planet. The heavenly bodies had also come to help the Israelites, as Deborah stated just one verse earlier, “From the heavens they fought, the stars from their orbits . . .” This star, however, which was the dominant star of Sisera, apparently did not come to their aid. And so, General Barak penalized Meroz—and its inhabitants.

Are these inhabitants intelligent? Intelligence is defined by Torah to mean the capacity to make decisions with free will. Free will is only possible where there is Torah, whereby the Creator offers His creatures more than one possibility and asks that they make the appropriate choice.

So, if there would be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, those creatures would have to have Torah. Could they have a different Torah than us? This is not possible, since Torah is truth, and there cannot be two truths.

Could they then have the same Torah as us? This also seems impossible, since the Torah itself describes in detail how the Torah was revealed on this planet, and that account itself has a strong impact on how the Torah is to be fulfilled.

It therefore appears that although it is quite possible there is life on other planets, that life would not be intelligent in a way similar to human life and culture.

But should we be looking?

Dr. Velvl Greene was a biologist who was enlisted by NASA in their project to determine if there is life on Mars. He asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe privately if this was something he should be doing.

The Rebbe replied, “Dr. Greene, look for life on Mars! And if you don’t find it there, look somewhere else in the universe for it. Because for you to sit here and say there is no life outside of planet Earth is to put limitations on the Creator, and that is not something any of His creatures can do!”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (280)
April 13, 2015
March 19, 2015
Infinite might also have its limits! But finite might also change into infinite!
At least there are finite and infinite things during our life time. Before and after is out of our reach. Evolution and Men have created infinite science, which will continue forever as long as men exist. What happened 3000 yrs ago was evolving into today and will continue in the future as well as the languages used then and now, thus infinite. If there was a beginning, now it keeps expanding into infinite future. “changes”: means there are no limits to how and how long and how far it can be done. Thus, some changes are finite and some are infinite. The weather keeps changing thus is infinite. Not all changes are final. So on and so forth…..to the infinity.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
April 12, 2015
Part II, for Joseph Shellim, the hint:

"...so, can He? The heavy stone?"

Clearly, one is engaging in futility when seeking the answer to a question if the question which he asks is not a question; this is axiomatic. Yet, if he still seeks the answer to such a question which is not a question (and therefore cannot be conceived of, logically), he should not despair, as ALL questions have an answer, not only those which can exist, but also - and this is of particular relevance here - those which can't, which both do and do not exist simultaneously... Of course, some answers are not answers; these are usually the type of answers which can neither exist nor be conceived of - which isn't to mean that they do not exist, of course, but that.... well, I said hint, so you may take it from here, should you wish to do so. Let me be unambiguous about one thing, Joseph: if you initially feel that you are being mocked now, you are not. Daniyel.
Daniyel Yisra'el ben-Asher
ארץ ישראל
April 12, 2015
Part I, for Joseph Shellim:
"An finite cannot an infinite."
Joseph, your challenge has long been posed as follows: "so, could ("your") G-d create a stone so heavy that He Himself could not lift it?" Sadly, many believe that this is a trap. It is by no means a trap of any sort. It is however, our favorite sort of trap! If I lived near you, I would be happy to delve into the answer with you - it is quite a wild ride, and I have the impression that you would eventually reach a conclusion which leaves you momentarily bewildered - then dazzles you to the very core (momentarily)... then bewilders you, then dazzles you, then bewilders you, then... well... you'll see - if you keep searching for answers, because you are doing so in the right type of place. I had to break this into 2 parts, because though I won't give you an explanation or an answer, I will give you a hint (which is actually an explanation of the answer).
Daniyel Yisra'el ben-Asher
ארץ ישראל
March 17, 2015
An finite cannot an infinite.
And vice versa. No one has produced anything that is infinite. All are reluctant to consider a finite universe - not realizing an infinite negates science as nothing else can.

Let's be boldly honest; let's not be swayed by ancient sounding text and read its actual import for today's science. Imagine we have to say something scientific to a people 3,000 years ago, without infringing their knowledge vocab: how would you say it for all generation's understanding - a literary feat in itself?

The Hebrew Bible gave us the first recording that introduced the finite premise: 'In the beginning God' = Once the universe never existed; 100% finite.

And that the Earth is billions of years old: count how long for the separation of land and water, mentioned before the advent of life.

And the only true definition of both finite & infinite being that of change. Anything subject to change is finite; we know of nothing that is not subject to change:
"I am the Lord I have not changed.'
Joseph Shellim
MELBOURNE
March 17, 2015
Finite and infinite
Yep, some things are infinite and some are finite. What's the problem? I see none. That an infinite universe now exists where none existed before is not a problem for me either. That's the reality we are living in, an infinite universe filled with an infinite variety of life, all created by HaShem in His Infinite Wisdom. Enjoy !!!
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
San Francisco, CA
March 15, 2015
Why...
Are so many aghast of considering a finite universe? It appears anathema even as a hypothetical premise. If its one of only two possibilities and we are not certain which - should it not be on the table? The scientific fact is that a finite Uni is not an un-scientific premise; it fully aligns with 'cause & effect'. So why not try it sometime and see how it fits reality; only then can a reasonable discussion become legitimate.
Joseph Shellim
MELBOURNE
March 13, 2015
An infinite universe needs no science. Everything was always there.
If stars were not always existing it means once light was not existing. By sub-sequence, all components once never existed. The devised age of the universe with the Hubble discovery of an expanding universe, says once the universe never existed.
Joseph Shellim
MELBOURNE
March 4, 2015
Were meroz was located and which creatures were there
kolmen
March 3, 2015
Can there not be a different truth for a different world?
Anonymous
Colorado
March 2, 2015
Setting the record straight.
There is no proof the universe is infinite. There are only 'indicatives' that negates infinite and inclines with finite. However, it is incumbent from a science view, that both scenarios should be considered, and the finite one should never be disregarded or ridiculed.

Those who hold an infinite view should also state what applies if the uni is finite, describe what they mean by absolutely infinite and absolutely finite, even if this is hypothetical to them. Otherwise they are not considering one of only two possible outcomes and subscribing to an un-scientific process of discourse.
Joseph
MELBOURNE
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