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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Man's mission

By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski




We are alive, obviously, for a reason. What is it?


One of the unique capacities of man is that he can reflect on the purpose of his existence. This is one of the human capacities that has often been allowed to lie fallow. Many (if not most) people go about their lives so engrossed in their daily activities that they hardly give any thought as to why they are doing things. I.e., they obviously know what their short- term goals are — e.g., that they are driving the car in order to get to work, and that they are working in order to earn a wage, etc. — however, they give little thought to what the ultimate purpose of their existence is.

It is meaningless to talk of the ultimate purpose of an individual if the entire universe is purposeless. Thus, if one believes in the primacy of matter and/or energy, and that the universe was not created but came into being as a result of some freak accident, then it makes no sense to ask what one's ultimate goal in life is. One can indeed have goals such as keeping the world clean, combating acid rain and preserving the tropical forests and endangered species, but there cannot be an ultimate goal in a world which, as a whole, has no goal.

It is much like the story of the two vagrants who were brought before the judge. "What were you doing when the officer arrested you?" the judge asked one vagrant. "Nothing," the man answered. "And what were you doing when you were arrested?" the judge asked the second vagrant. "I was helping him," the man answered.

Helping someone who is doing nothing may seem meritorious, but one is actually doing nothing. Similarly, doing things for a world that lacks purpose cannot be purposeful. The only way one can consider the ultimate purpose of one's existence is if the world itself has a purpose, and this presupposes that it was created for a purpose by a Creator.

Belief in a Creator may require a "leap of faith." In spite of all the philosophical arguments that have been proposed throughout history to prove the existence of the Divine, the fact is that it is a matter of faith. As Maimonides says, "A person is obligated to believe that there is a G-d," and the 13 principles of faith that Maimonides cites as the foundation of Judaism are matters of belief. Anything that can be proven is not an object of faith. One does not have to believe that 2 + 2 = 4, nor that a magnet can attract iron filings, because these can be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Judaism is predicated on the belief that there is a G-d.

However, it is more than mere belief. Judaism has an uninterrupted transmission from generation to generation of the revelation at Sinai, where over two million people heard the voice of G-d and witnessed the awe-inspiring scene described in Exodus. There was not a single deviation of the account handed down to their children by those present. Perhaps I have a bit of an advantage. I descend from an illustrious rabbinic family. Yes, I have come across philosophical arguments about the existence of G-d. Like many others, I have been bewildered by the suffering of the innocent and righteous, and I have not been able to avoid thinking, "How could G-d permit this to happen?" It is a rare person that never questions his belief. However, I recognize that the forbearers were far brighter and far more intelligent than I will ever be, and all the questions that may occur to me certainly occurred to him.

Nevertheless, they had an unfaltering conviction in the Divine and Torah, and that is more than adequate for me.

In contrast to things that can be proven, faith is supra-rational. Inasmuch as G-d is infinite and the mind of man is finite, there is simply no way that a human being can understand anything about G-d, other than that which He revealed to us in a manner that we can integrate. All the terms we use to refer to G-d are in essence inaccurate, and we use them only because these are the only vehicles we have for expression and communication.

For example, when we say that G-d is compassionate, our natural tendency is to think of compassion the way we know it, i.e., human compassion. The fact is, however, that Divine compassion and human compassion are qualitatively different, and we cannot have a true understanding of what Divine compassion is.

Yet, since we need to speak about G-d insofar as He has revealed Himself to us, we can only use the words we have. We must bear in mind, however, that these are essentially "borrowed" terms, as we cannot ascribe to G-d any of the feelings we associate with human experience.


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Thus, when we speak of "the will of G-d," we must dissociate this from our concept of will as we understand it. When a human being wants something, he is pleased when he gets whatever it was that he desired, hence there is a change in his feelings. I.e., he is happier after he gets what he wanted than he was before. This cannot be true of G-d, since G-d is all perfect, and never changes in any way. What then do we mean by "the will of G-d?" Only that if G-d does something, it is because it is in keeping with His "will," and if he commands us to do something, it is in keeping with His "will" that we do it.

The kabbalists therefore refer to G-d's will with the term "simple will," to indicate that it is distinct from human will and is not associated with a change of feeling the way human will is. It is evident, however, that we are talking about something which is completely beyond our capacity to understand.

We believe that G-d created the universe, and that He has a purpose for its existence. We believe that G-d gave us the Torah to reveal to us how we are to participate in that purpose. Again, since G-d cannot be "happier" after creation of the universe than before, the idea that He had a "purpose" is beyond our comprehension. It is in matters such as this that we are told: "Do not seek to understand those things that are beyond you" (Chagigah 13a).

In geometry there are some principles or axioms which are its foundations, as, for example, that two parallel lines cannot intersect, or that quantities which are equal to the same quantity are equal to each other. Once we assume these principles and axioms, we can then build an entire structure of geometry on them. Similarly, once we accept the principles of faith, we can then use our intellect to build upon them, but the basic principles are givens. We cannot ask why G-d has this purpose for the universe or why he has this purpose for us as individuals. We can only build upon the principles He has revealed to us in the Torah, and, using the tools revealed to us for Torah study, elaborate upon those principles.


There are many works in Torah literature that address the question of man's purpose in life. One of the most lucid presentations is that of RaMCHaL (Luzzatto) in his epochal work, Path of the Just (Mesillas Yesharim). RaMCHaL states that the ultimate purpose of man's existence is to be in the immanent presence of the revealed glory of G-d, and that this can only occur in the eternal, heavenly world. However, man can achieve this goal only by appropriately preparing himself for it in this earthly world, by performing the mitzvos which G-d commanded. RaMCHaL states, and this is further elaborated in Tanya, that the gap between mortal man and infinite G-d is unbridgeable except via the Divine commandments. No method developed by man can bridge this gap. Thus, neither seeking unification with the universe via meditation nor, as some have unfortunately thought, by mind-expanding chemicals, can man be brought close to G-d.

Observing the Divine dictates in this world can indeed bring a person close to G-d, but the ultimate bliss of being in the immanent presence of G-d cannot be reached as long as the soul is confined within the physical body. This ultimate goal can therefore be achieved only after one's earthly existence has come to an end, but one must utilize the earthly existence in order to gain access to the eternal world.

Man should not delude himself into thinking that the ultimate purpose of existence can be in this world, and certainly not that he was created to indulge in all the earthly pleasures available to him. The Talmud indeed states that G-d wishes us to enjoy the world (Jerusalem Talmud, end of tractate Kiddushin), but this is while we are en route to fulfilling our ultimate purpose.

Western civilization seems to have adopted a hedonistic philosophy of life. In recent times the advance of science and technology has produced near miraculous achievements, so that the average life span has been dramatically prolonged, and countless devices have made living much more comfortable. Yet, it is evident, as RaMCHaL points out, that man could not have been created merely for the purpose of reaching contentment in life, because if this were the case, endowing him with great intellect defeats the purpose.

Lower forms of life experience far less distress than man, whose superior brain, while allowing him to write great literature, compose musical masterpieces, and develop highly sophisticated computers, also renders him susceptible to anxiety, stress, and painful emotional disorders which do not plague lower forms of life. As RaMCHaL so correctly points out, once we believe that G-d created man, it is absurd to think that it was for man to be content, because the lives of the overwhelming majority of humans are replete with suffering. "You will not find one out of a thousand for whom the world has provided pleasure and tranquility" (Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 1). It is of great interest and extreme importance that the "one out of a thousand" who appears to have pleasure and tranquility may not be satisfied with this, and this may well be the primary reason why many people have turned to a Torah life. Sometimes they just feel an inexplicable void and embark on a search for meaning. At other times a significant event stimulates and initiates this search. Let me cite an example of the latter.


The first thing I saw at medical school was a dead man. From that first day in the anatomy dissection hall as I peeled back the heavy sheet from the cadaver I was to dissect, everything seemed different. I had begun to wonder about purpose and meaning, and delving into that human body daily, discovering its wonders and simultaneously facing death, exposed a vague emptiness; he seemed to be challenging me, demanding that I examine myself and define where I was going. He had been a young man; the label on the sheet said: "Cause of death unknown," and in a way he was me. Even the best medical school teaches only sophisticated plumbing, really, and does not answer the existential questions; if anything it raises them, presents paradoxes: Man is an accidental creature distantly descended from an amoeba and closely related to an ape, and yet his life is worth saving. It did not make any sense.

I had never thought much beyond myself until then: I had not been searching for anything in particular, and the question of ultimate meaning had never really bothered me, probably because my life in the day-to-day present had been so full. I had grown up in the lap of South African luxury and lacked nothing: money, servants who did everything from polishing shoes to serving breakfast in bed, weekends on the tennis court and by the pool, holidays on the Cape's breathtaking beaches or on safari in the national game parks, endless entertainment; in short, all the gracious ease that was South Africa. I owned three motorcycles before I was 18, and an Italian convertible I had everything I wanted and enjoyed it all (Anatomy of a Search, Mesorah Publications, 1987).

The author goes on to relate how the search for meaning brought him and a number of his friends to Torah. One young man who consulted me was not so fortunate. He too had everything he wanted and enjoyed it all, but was plagued by the feeling of emptiness described above. Instead of turning to spirituality, he found his solution in drugs, and while heroin indeed temporarily relieved his distress over feeling empty, his addiction led to his self-destruction.

Man's ultimate purpose can therefore not be found in this earthly world.


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RaMCHaL goes on to explain that man's task on earth is to fulfill the Divine dictates and to withstand the various trials and tests to which he is put. The moments of tranquility and pleasure that he has are merely "rest stops," as it were, to enable him to recharge his energies for the ongoing struggle,

NEXT: The Battle Between Body and Soul

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Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center for addiction treatment. An Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he is a prolific author, with dozens of books to his credit, including, "Twerski on Spirituality", from which this was excerpted (Sales of this book help fund JWR).

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