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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 (244)
November 19, 2014
The Fact is…
No matter how vast your knowledge and wisdom are, you will never reach high enough the whole Universe. So, let your mind flow towards the possibility of other human or different creatures existing in an extremely far and high place(s). Scientists are getting closer to find out but not quite there yet, and they prevail over us with their findings. It’s not up to our brains to decide what’s up there or not.
It’s like what happens after life. If there is one being that has gone all the way and come back, let them come forward and tell us about it. I’m not talking about people who have experienced the afterlife just before reaching the bright light that they say they have seen. They too have not reached all the way through the real after life experience, although some pretend having gone through. Scientists have different views on this matter.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
November 16, 2014
Allright already
Mr Joseph Shellim from Sydney ok, you're the ultimate source of knowledge on this subject.. I won't repeat myself anymore.. Hasta la vista.
Zei gezunt.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
San Francisco
November 14, 2014
Reports are not proof.
There are numerous reasons for such reporting, including intentional and unintentional ones, errors and scams. The espionage world did similar stuff. The issue is too important to rely on reporting or the belief advanced aliens can be so easily hidden away, for so long, with so many nations.

All evidences, including science, math and research into space says no life for 15 Billion years - we just don't like to accept this because it means we are thus far alone.
'Those who lie make sure their proof is far away'.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney
November 13, 2014
Ignorance is bliss?
We've gone over this theme many times already. Present and ex-government employees, present and ex government Intel agents, and high-ranking present and ex-government military personnel, have come together all over various parts of the globe, including the USA, and have presented sworn testimony and evidence of a number of extraterrestrial races that have been visiting the Earth for quite some time. Denying the reality solves nothing.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
Guanajuato, MEXICO
November 4, 2014
Ignoring reality has no logic.
1. Life has been found on earth in the core of volcanoes - at temps equal to the harshest known places outside of earth.

2. Earth is younger than many other space bodies - allowing time for life to emerge elsewhere is the harshest conditions.

3. No life has been found for 14 Billion years in the known universe despite the most earnest searches.

Which part of those factors do not apply?
JOSEPH SHELLIM
SYDNEY
November 4, 2014
definition of intelligence
Where does the rabbi source that the definition of intelligence according to Torah is free will? The same Maimonides that he quotes about higher intelligence explains that the intelligence of the planets and heavenly bodies including that of the angels is much higher than that of humans, yet they do not have free will in the same way as we do. Free will does not equate intelligence. So I can accept that us humans who have the Torah may be the only beings with true free will, but higher intelligence certainly exists outside of earth including in higher spiritual dimensions even though they are not recipients of the Torah. What defines true free will would be a completely separate topic. Bottom line is that the Torah clearly accepts life and intelligent life outside of earth. The only question is to what degree does that life have their own self determination and free will and to what degree has it evolved and what is its possible effects on our existence.
sholom
Sydney
November 1, 2014
Who was there in the beginning?
I guess no one can comprehend where does God comes from, does he have a creator etc. Still, wouldn't you like to know it? Guess our minds can't grasp this mystery...therefore it is still a secret. As it is the one about life elsewhere in the universe.
Another thing - when the Saviour comes to take the righteouss into His Kingdom to live there forever with Him - what are those to do there apart from basking in His Eternal love? What is the point of struggle on Earth in order to gain an Eternal life (IF one deserves to live in a new Paradise - only Him knows who and how many they are).
Perhaps it is again the brain's incapability to understand the meaning of everlasting life in God's presence. Perhaps people are used to living a earthly life so much, that it does not allow for other, at least visual phantasies of life with God.
Perhaps I lack faith...but, should my faith be blind when it comes to these questions?
Anyhow, I do get goosebumps when reading about "evil" extraterrestrial life
Anonymous
London
October 30, 2014
IAMJOSEPH in Sydney
Yes, we fully well know what your view is. Unfortunately there have been many ex-military and intell officers that have come forward and explained the reality to all of humanity.....well, those who hear their words and see their videos, that their are other planets and universes teeming with alien life and visiting the earth.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
Guanajuato, MEXICO
October 30, 2014
Life on other Planets???
B"H If we try and understand that in order to travel amongst the stars and galaxies within a person's own single lifetime, it would necessitate the control of Time; then we would also need to consider paradoxes as well. If we went backward in time we could accidentally alter the sequence of events which lead to our present. If we were to do that we could destroy the events which lead to the discoveries necessary that brought about space travel, which means we could Not have ever left our own timeline to begin with, etc. Therefore, if other intelligences have succeeded, we must realize that they could Not make their presence known to us out of that presumption. Hopefully, by the time we humans develop our technology enough to travel thru time & space, we will also be responsible enough. This was Gene Rodenberry's idea behind The Prime Directive, in the Star Trek series. All our machines and instruments are subject to time's dominion. We can't measure anything outside of it yet.
Anonymous
Pasadena, CA
October 29, 2014
Rambam was speaking of stars as intelligent beings.
The Hebrew bible fully dispels lie outside earth and has commanded humanity to have dominion. There has no been life imprints in the known universe for 14 Billion years. Real maths: The unknown universe is more like the known than not.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney
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