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What is the Purpose of Life?

What is the Purpose of Life?

Notes from conversations with the Rebbe, 1952

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Purpose in Life

Q: Would you say that doing is more important than learning? If so, then are you not bound to lead a life of blind faith?

A: When a child is hungry and wants to eat immediately, his mother does not explain to him all the processes which the foods go through in order that he should be able to eat them. Rather, she gives him food immediately, for that is what will satisfy him. Then she can proceed to explain the baking of the bread, etc. to the child, if the child wants to know.

Just as one needs food for his physical life, so does one need food for his spiritual life. It follows the same process.

Q: Is not one supposed to rationalize his thought and understand what he is doing?

A: Rationalization is a means by which one should strengthen his faith. Rationalization should make one believe more strongly.

Q: What is the purpose (תכלית) of life?

A: To bring light (ליכטיקייט) into the world.

Q: What is the תכלית of ליכטיקייט?

A: The תכלית of ליכטיקייט is to find a harmonious life. One can only be in complete harmony when he has reached the truth.

Q: How does one know that he has found the תכלית?

A: When one has ליכטיקייט then he will have found the תכלית. A person cannot feel that which he lacks. One looks for what he does not possess. If he had what he was lacking for he would not search.

Q: Why do we need ceremonies and mitzvot? Are they not a burden upon a person?

A: When one creates something, he wants the full benefit of what he creates. G‑d is complete goodness. He would not create a thing that would be a burden to people, His creations.

Q: Some people would feel that being a good Jew does not necessarily mean adhering to all the precepts of the Torah. They feel they could be good Jew without doing all the mitzvot such as, putting on tefillin. How could this be explained to them?

A: When a doctor prescribes a medicine and the patient is reluctant and stubborn about not taking it, the doctor, if he is good and honest doctor, would not lead him astray and tell his patient to take something else in its place that would not have the same effect. Instead, he would endeavor to explain to the patient why it is necessary to take this medicine and not relinquish the patient until he has exhausted all means of convincing him.

Rebbe and Chassid

Q: What is the difference between a Rebbe and a Rabbi?

A: A Rabbi is one who teaches his pupils when they come to him and will answer a question when brought to him. A Rebbe does not wait for you to come to him. He reaches forth among the people and tries to awaken them and inspire them, and tries to find ways and methods to bring them their religion.

Q: What is a Rebbe?

A: A Rebbe does not consider himself as superior to his Chassidim. He merely contains those parts of the souls of his Chassidim that are connected with him. When a Chassid comes to the Rebbe with a problem, he tries to find in the Rebbe the part of his own soul which is included in the Rebbe's and connect it with his soul—and thus be connected with the Rebbe's soul. It is through this connection that the Chassid receives his material and spiritual life and needs.

For example, let us take the electric bulb which produces light. The bulb itself is incapable of producing light, however there are electrical power plants stationed in some distant part of the city which generates the necessary power to produce light. There must be a channel through which the power can pass and reach each individual bulb—in addition to the constitution of the bulb which enables it to receive the power from the power. The channel is a wire which connected the power station to the bulb, and when this connection is opened by turning on the switch the bulb receives the power and will then function.

The same applies to a Rebbe and Chassidim. The Rebbe is the power-plant which produces the needed strength and power to fulfill the commandments and obligations (spiritual) and also conveys the material. The greater the Rebbe is, the more light he will produce... The channel through which the Chassid can receive these necessities is his soul which is connected to the soul of the Rebbe. The sole duty of the Rebbe is to deliver the above mentioned necessities, spiritual and material, to his Chassidim.

Although the Rebbe is also required to fulfill his own bodily functions, that is not his purpose or true function; it is only because his soul is bound with a earthly body which cannot exist without these functions. If one comes to a Rabbi complaining of a headache and the Rabbi gives him an aspirin, we surely won't say that this is the function of a Rabbi. The same is with a Rebbe when he must carry out the necessary functions of his body.

Q: Can anyone become a Rebbe?

A: Not everyone can become a Rebbe. One needs something from Above to fill this mission. It is easier when a Rebbe has inherited his position, just as it is easier for one who has inherited a talent to perform and develop his talents than one who has to develop them without immediate inherited talent.

Q: In Europe the Chassidim often went to their Rebbes on holidays. Why was this so?

A: A Chassid finds in his Rebbe a connection between himself and G‑d. He feels that when he goes to his Rebbe he will take back with him more holiness (קדושה).

Q: Is the function of Rebbe like that of a psychologist? Can a Rebbe take the place of a psychiatrist?

A: When a psychiatrist speaks to his patients he regards them as objects of study. Though he is interested in curing his patient and in helping him to adjust to life, his approach is to derive not only a healthy being but an accumulation of information about human beings for his further knowledge. A Rebbe gives himself over completely to the person. When one is seeking a solution, the Rebbe does not study him but is more emotionally involved with the person who comes to see him. Only a small part of a Rebbe's work is like that of a psychologist's. That is not his primary function.

Yet when one needs aspirins for his cure, the Rebbe will tell him to go to the drug store and buy some, and not try to substitute a prescription with something else. If he needs a psychiatrist to cure his ailment the Rebbe will not try to substitute his cure with another person.

Q: What is the significance of a brachah (blessing)?

A: In the words of my father-in-law [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe], a brachah is like rain (גשמי ברכה). If the soil is plowed and ready to be sown, and one throws seeds into the soil, the seeds will grow and blossom when rain falls upon them. If however, the soil is unprepared the seed finds difficulty in sprouting forth even when there is an abundance of rain.

When an individual comes for a brachah and he is emotionally and spiritually equipped, the brachah will help him to grow and blossom into a meaningful individual.

If, however, one is in a deep coma, a good doctor would not abandon his task of trying to awaken him. He would to his utmost to help this individual, even if it means hurting the individual for his benefit. If necessary he will even give shock treatments if he knows that the patient will be revived by that method and that method will help the individual.

Science, Religion & Study

Q: Does science contradict religion?

A: Science cannot be opposed to religion, nor religion to science, because religion is truth and science seeking the truth. There can only be a temporary misunderstanding between science and religion.

Q: How can you explain scientifically the existence of G‑d and the need for religion?

A: 1) Take the Chumash, and open it. Before you are many words. Suppose you have never heard of a printer nor seen a printing shop. Would you then say, not knowing how those words were formed, that they developed from a bottle of ink that was spilled by itself and formed these words? Or would you not say that these words were made on purpose. You would have to say that there was some force who created these words and put them in such an order. Just as a pencil which contains billions of atoms has to have some law of order governing it to exist, so too do the words in the Chumash need an order governing it, to exist and to be understood.

2) We have established that the Chumash was made purposefully. When G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people they were given it directly from G‑d and accepted it directly from Him. There were 600,000 Jews at Mount Sinai who heard what G‑d said and who accepted the Torah. They passed on what they knew to be true from generation to generation. It is not very likely that a father, in all his senses, would tell his son a thing that is not so. There has never been less than 600,000 religious Jews in Jewish history and this chain of tradition has never been broken. There has never been an interruption in the constant regeneration of at least 600,000 religious Jews. In other religions there is not to be found this unbroken chain of tradition.

Q: If all that is said above is true, what proof does one have that the Jewish Religion is the true and only religion?

A: A scientific discovery is accepted when there is enough evidence or proof that the discovery is true. The more people who agree with the results of an experiment add support to that discovery. If 600 people performed an experiment using the same implements and 100 people performed the same experiment on the same basis, and the results showed that the 600 people stated a belief on the basis of their experiments, and the 100 people disagreed with them on the basis of their experiments, you would believe the 600 people more readily than the 100 people.

The Christian religion has only 12 witnesses to affirm its origin and prominence.

The Buddhists have three witnesses.

The Muslims had only one witness.

The Jewish religion had 600,000 witnesses. On that basis you would say the Jewish religion has the greatest amount of witnesses and therefore the greatest amount of truth.

Q: Was there only quantity or quality too at Mount Sinai?

A: There was a great deal of quality. Jews from all walks of life were present; from all different occupations and professions (carpenter, bakers, scientists, philosophers). What greater quality of people can one assemble at one place?

Q: How can you say the Jewish people truly believed in G‑d when immediately after Mount Sinai they made a golden calf?

A: The golden calf did not signify disbelief in G‑d but belief in many gods including the Supreme G‑d.

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