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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 (228)
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
April 29, 2014
No one knows
No one knows what G-d did or did not do. Nor who G-d is. Nor what He/She is capable of doing. Maybe the Prophets or Moises did. We can only speculate, we can only hope for a gradual awareness of all of G-ds' workings dawning on an ignorant and supersticious mankind. Science is NOT G-d, cannot be G-d, and, at this point cannot comprehend what G-d has created, only a very small fraction of the totality of the ALL. No one can say life does not exist elsewhere, as no one has gone to those other worlds, other planets, other nebulae. We also have no real concept, except extremely rudimentary, as to what those other life forms might be. Prejudice and fear contracts the intellect to a tunnel-vision of reality.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
Guanajuato, MEXICO
April 28, 2014
Re "Did God Stop his work and rest on the seventh day? "
God never rested; only the creation work was rested. Yes we must strive to understand what is made & addressed to us ['He speaks in the language of the people']. Thus far, the Jews have been remarkably right & correct of most things, in relation to others. Take for example Christianity's attempts to fulfill away the Hebrew laws - its the greatest failure. All Christian judiciaries follow the Hebrew law.
IamJoseph
Sydney
April 28, 2014
B.P.
You seemed a little hard on Mr. Goldman because you read the Prophets. Most Jews take the scriptures seriously not literally. Creation took six days but each day could be a week, a month ,a year etc., so to say six day's the earth was created would be foolish to really believe that literally. The topic is life on other planets but you read Prophets so no other life could exist! We now know their are many more planets in our galaxy then ever before and for many centuries flying objects have been depicted in paintings, even up to now we have photo's and video's. How can that be explained. When G-D created the Heavens - plural - there is a good chance other worlds were also created as well. Do not be closed minded to creation from The Creator.
FISHEL
Yonkers NY
April 9, 2014
Eleazar Shlomo Ben Yakov Goldman,
So creation never stopped, huh? So G-d lied, or did Moses? Did God Stop his work and rest on the seventh day? That's what the Holy scriptures say, absolutely, so your comment, "creation never stopped, the Holy One re-creates the Universe continually", is categorically wrong! You can't have G-d resting or stopping, from his creating, at the same time he is not! My question to the Jewish people is, when will the Word of G-d be enough? Many things that science said FIFTY years ago have been proven wrong, what does that have to do with what G-d has already revealed in his word? The reason many Jews cannot accept simply what Moses said, is because most Jews believe, falsely, that they can interpret what G-d said as well as anyone else, that my friend is the fatal flaw of the Jewish people. I suggest you read the Prophets again, if you've ever read them, and start taking their word that came straight from G-d!
Billy Price
Cincinnati, Ohio
April 8, 2014
"You are the energy"
Energy never existed at one time, then it existed. There is a causative source point and a causer [science]. The micro never existed at one time. If a single quark is superfluous it means all Creation can be random and no predictable, repeatable pattern will form; this is not the case. When it says 'Tree of knowledge of good and bad' - it means both these phenomenons are real and pre-existential [already created phenomenons], otherwise how could it come about? Light & darkness never existed at one time - these were created with divine engineering exactly how a car maker creates a car. No other explanation can apply in a finite universe.

One cannot use science [cause & effect] selectively.
IamJoseph
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