They asked the tzadik, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, "Why are we told to place holy words upon our heart? Why not inside our heart?"

"We can only place these words upon our heart," he answered. "But perhaps one day the heart will shake, a small fissure will open and the words will fall inside."

That's why I call these words meditations—because the last thing I want is for you to read this book through, put it down and say, "That was nice." I want you to write these words on your heart. I want you to meditate.

How do you meditate on words? You need to get past the words. You need to get to the life pulsating within them. Liberate that life. Perhaps it is your own. Perhaps your life is a commentary on these words. Perhaps the words will liberate you.

This series of meditation books holds tightly packed nuggets of wisdom garnered from the teachings of "the Rebbe", Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. This first book dances around the idea of Purpose. But first, let me provide some context:

Purpose is the antithesis of despair.

Whatever despair will tell you, purpose will say the opposite. And if you want to understand purpose, listen to the person in despair and invert his words.

How was it that a human being came up with this idea, this notion that life has purpose? Who first managed to look at life from beyond life and see that it is was made to go somewhere? Perhaps it could only be through a Divine voice. Perhaps to Abraham. Perhaps it was known from the dawn of human consciousness, but then forgotten and rediscovered. Certainly it wasn't always popular. Even today, many who call themselves enlightened find it hard to accept.

But there is no idea as empowering and as vital. Without the idea of purpose, what is life other than a snare to escape? How would we measure the dignity of a human being if none of our lives had inherent worth? What would drive us to preserve our world and treasure its beauty if we believed that nothing is of lasting value?

So somehow the notion of purpose found its way into the human psyche: That just as the universe appears intelligent within space—with a oneness of design, an elegance of repeated patterns and symmetries, to the point that as scientists we are convinced there must be a single, unifying principle behind it all—so too in time: with a beginning, a middle and an ultimate goal. That at the core of all that exists lies not a placid stillness; not an indifferent, transcendent Being contemplating his navel; but a burning purpose—along with a boundless delight in seeing that purpose fulfilled. That every croak and buzz; every blade of grass, every planet, every rock and sub-atomic particle plays a unique part in achieving that purpose. And that it is a purpose in which each and every human being plays the leading role; because we are the radical factor, the being that chooses the notes we wish to play.

So the first book of meditations is the Book of Purpose, because this is a meditation that changes everything. Because, otherwise, you might contemplate deep ideas, open your eyes to wisdom and behold new depths—and do absolutely nothing about it. So we start by telling you, "Move! Do something!"

After all, if you don't move, how will the words ever fall inside your heart?

Some of these meditations, such as Life in Words, are almost direct translations. Others are paraphrases or interpretations. Some are from the Rebbe's predecessors. All of them appeared at some time or other in "A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Rebbe," emailed out by I've included some informal jottings about sources for most of them.

I wish to thank my precious wife, Nomi, for her insightful comments and edits, and for putting up with my temporary disappearance in the process of writing this work.