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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 (217)
April 3, 2014
The creation is not static
"The text contains not just good [which is sufficient], but also all was 'completed' and creation was rested [stopped]. Aside being awed by the size of the universe, there is not a single trace or imprint of life. The known universe clearly negates life. If life did exist, it is impossible to be hidden and not seen. We abhor the thought of being along."

Creation never stopped, the Holy One re-creates the Universe continually. The totality of the whole Universe is still moving towards it's ultimate destiny. Igne Natura Renovatur Integra (Latin: All Nature Will Be Renewed By Fire; alchemists' aphorism) Life fills all space and time, as Hashem is SHADDAI EL CHAI, and fills the void with His living essence. "Science" did not comprehend 200 years ago, what it is able to decipher today, or what it will be able to fathom in 100 years from now. If it is primarily materialistic, it cannot fathom the depths.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
Guanajuato, MEXICO
April 2, 2014
For You "I Am Joseph"
"You" are one single reason. There is no control room within you,, no single location in your physiology which can be pointed to as to be able to say, This is where You are. You, Joseph, exist. yet in the microscopic world you could Not be proven to exist. There is No single physicality that is YOU. You are the energy between and permeating through the atomic structure, and not the structure itself. Atoms are also made up of strands of energies, weak and strong forces. In the sub-atomic world Nothing can be proven to exist, especially not intellect, nor identity. Therefore, we have 6 billion examples that life can exist, even though unproveable. It would simply be a matter of perspective then. A view from the period at the end of a sentence, looking outward would lead to a conclusion such as, "See, nothing exists, there is no Thought preceeding Me, which I can see, and nothing afterward. I am the only existence." PERIOD :-)
Anonymous
Pasadena, CA
April 1, 2014
Compared to something
Genesis lists all created entities, including stars, the void and the empty deep. Before the creation of humans, there were no humans and animals were last life form: we cannot say that at this point animals were not the last because something else may have existed. If one's pockets are empty, it does not mean it is not empty relative to what may lie in unknown pockets. Genesis' Grammar is perfect.

A better argument is that angels are mentioned later, but these are not mentioned in the Creation chapter.
Iamjoseph
April 1, 2014
Creation ceased after humans = Humans are the final life form.
Of course only humans are addressed and told to have dominion. It is mankind's duty to decipher what Gd says: who else? No life is validated by science with the absence of life seen for some 14 B years. The math also says so: no life in the known universe says this is what applies in the unknown universe - more so than not so. Give one single reason for assuming life out there?
IamJoseph
April 1, 2014
Compared to something
To B.P.
No holding back on your opening remarks, but that's good I like a good discussion, sometimes even heated. You said the word good refers to - complete - whole - sufficient. I respect your THEORY of words but if something is good, whole or sufficient you must compare it to something so those words can hold fact. My theory is G-D must have compared it to something for Him to say it was good. If man were to not have theories this computer we are writing on would not be. As I already know you must not believe in Alien beings or other worlds but that's ok, that's your opinion and I must respect that but to call someone ignorant because as you say I do not know Biblical truths only shows me that you are the ignorant one. When I first wrote on this discussion about how people are arrogant with them being the only ones in this galaxy or further I was talking about people like you. You are A typical. You make G-D very small in His greatness and His creations. G-D CREATED THE HEAVENS!
FISHEL
Yonkers NY
April 1, 2014
Genesis says "NO LIFE"
The text contains not just good [which is sufficient], but also all was 'completed' and creation was rested [stopped]. Aside being awed by the size of the universe, there is not a single trace or imprint of life. The known universe clearly negates life. If life did exist, it is impossible to be hidden and not seen. We abhor the thought of being along.
Iamjoseph
March 27, 2014
To Fishel
I can agree that man has theories, and that's all that your line of thinking is. Attempting to speak for G-d's reference to other "worlds" when G-d said his creation was "good", just shows your ignorance of basic Biblical truths. The word, "good" there refers to the words, " complete" and "whole" and " sufficient", and is not an opportunity for you to dream about what G-d meant in comparison to non- existent alien worlds of which we have no proof! Secondly your false theory fails again in your assumption that G-d is still creating, when the scripture plainly states that G-d rested from his creating on the seventh day! That is the scriptural foundation for the Sabbath!
Billy Price
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 27, 2014
Life on other planets?
B"H Ok, so a lot of people believe that Life can possibly ex elsewhere in this vast Cosmos of which we are barely even a part of. If the entire solar system were swallowed by a Black Hole tomorrow, we wouldn't even see it coming, it would happen so fast, if it had happened billions of years ago, yet it wuld actually be tomorrow. Time is neither constant nor Linear. So By thinking we humans have the only intellect that exists, I beg to differ, especially when it comes to the Torah. The following words are the example I cite: Elokim, Teraphim, Seraphim, Nephiliim, Malakim, and Cheruvim. HaShem states specifically that He is NOT a Man, therefore there is One case of Life elsewhere. probably many more if you cannot define these creatures with Terrestrial examples, they exist outside our perception of Our reality. Heck, we can't even hear as much as a dog, what makes you so sure then that your senses and intellect alone can harness what our reality IS
Anonymous
Pasadena, CA
March 20, 2014
It is good
When G-D said in His final examination of what He created, by saying it is good wouldn't you think He was comparing this to another world? Angel's coming down to earth, were they angels? Man will always have theories, that's what makes us unique but we should not be put on this earth and then say, that's it we are the only ones. Did G-D want us to settle with the fact we are the only ones or would thinking out of the line be more suitable to His liking. Theories will always be man's conquest to answers, so let us look up at the stars at night knowing G-D is watching, G-D is still creating, G-D still want's us to question things to learn. Life on other planets...many believe, many do not. We must know G-D is always in control, not of our thinking, but what is really out there.
Fishel
Yonkers NY
March 20, 2014
life on other planets
G_d must be having a field day, with this, as the comments come flying in, still. It could be, the bigger question is, is there truly life on this planet? We seem to disregard the lives of organisms, the plants, the earth, our mountains, what lives and breathes in this sanctuary called Earth. My name is Ruth, I see the ancient urth in Ruth, because I do it, with words. And it feels like a vast, amazing Story by now, that is sweeping, and weeping in its implications, for us all, leading to making sure, this planet, is made beautiful again. That's the Nirvana in Edenic thinking, in Messianism.

As to the Hebrew letters, it's a heady brew, and maybe it's time to revisit this, Creation arising from sacred alphabets.

This morning G_d led me to pick the Aleph, to rotate the Aleph, and I posted this on my FB page, because YES, I do keep a Vow, and I do keep a Diary, and this shows a bird, feet on a branch, wings outstretched. The Aleph.

God is in the wings
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
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