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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 (233)
August 10, 2014
Hi Shlomo, RE: The RaMBaM
Certainly, the Rambam was a very knowledgeable Sage. And, I would totally agree with his position. According to Dr Steven Greer, along with many high-Intell personel and High-Miltary personnel working with him, there are about 9 different alien species currently interacting with earth and its inhabitants. Most species are considerate, very advanced technologically, and even spiritually. Some, though, are dangerous and brutal in their attitudes towards the earth and its' inhabitants. The Holy One, in His exalted Wisdom has caused life to exist everywhere in the vast spaces and bodies of the universe, although we, as humans, are normally not aware of their existence, not even having the technology to detect them for the most part.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
Guanajuato, MEXICO
August 10, 2014
G-D and faith UFO's and proof
People have faith in G-D, we never saw him but the belief is strong, why because evidence by writings and places found seemed to prove the Bible worthy that G-D does exist so that is where faith comes in. They have found pictures on stone from thousands of years old of flying objects, we have paintings with objects in the sky from hundreds of year old and up to date we have photo's and films showing flying objects not from this earth but people still don't believe in other people other then us can exist. It could be faith when it was said G-D created the heavens which could be other worlds or it could be our proof. The decision is up to the individual.
Fishel
Yonkers NY
August 8, 2014
No life imprints in known universe for 14 B Years.
Science says "No Life impressions". The Math says 'The unknown is more like the known than not so". Genesis: 'Life began on Earth'.
IamJoseph
Sydney
August 8, 2014
According to the Rambam, otherwise known as Maimonides, the intelligence of the beings in outer space is intelligence that is higher than that of humans, but lower than that of the angels. So according to the Rambam, there is no question that intelligent life exists in outer space, we just don't know if that means that we are able to communicate with that life or what form that life takes and what physical abilities those life forms have.
Sholom
NY
August 8, 2014
Other life forms.
So may be, these other life forms are like at the animal level?
Anonymous
Carson City
May 9, 2014
IamJoseph,
That is a great observation, orphans can't accept such a conclusion, that is awesome! Orphans have NO IDEA what a Fathers' intent is, do they? They fantasize all their lives of a Father that never really existed, who would feed them lollipops and ice cream, and never spank them, and let them do what ever their little minds tell them to, with absolutely no limits! But children who have a real, knowable Father, realize that the limits their Father places on them is for their own good, they respect a Father who disciplines them! Their growing sense of belonging to a knowable Father shapes their minds because they believe their real, knowable Father would never mislead them by his words or actions! Our G-d knows the plans he has for US! To bless us and to give us an EXPECTED END! These orphans believe in a G-d who pulls the rug out from under our feet! Great observation!
Billy Price
Cincinnati, Ohio
May 8, 2014
Some people act like they know it all
Feigele, yes, some people delude themselves into thinking they know it all, but OTHERS who have written on the subject here know that they know only a tiny fraction of what G-d knows, and leave room for the potential of evolving human awareness. G-d seems to favor the modest and humble, and instruct them in HIS ways.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
Guanajuato, MEXICO
May 7, 2014
The Wise Men...
Nobody knows, but some people seem to know it all!
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
May 6, 2014
No one knows
Orphans cannot accept such a conclusion. It sounds like a clever scheme to make all life forever searching and chasing. Something similar was done to Adam & Eve: take any fruit you like - except the one that gives you eternal life. Try the mangoes they're delicious. Yeah sure.
IamJoseph
Sydney
April 29, 2014
Re. "When G-D created the Heavens - plural "
But the verb in that verse is singular. And many life form groups and the heavens were created before those words were uttered. That God is One is also confirmed in the second of the 10 Commandments.
IamJoseph
Sydney
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