Why are we even down here on earth? What is our special role as Jews and as part of the human race? The Avner Institute presents the Rebbe’s guidance on our true life work and the real reason for our descent from the highest heights to the lowest depths – to elevate the world through righteous acts, transform it into a holy dwelling, and restore the soul to its heavenly source.
Beverly Hills, California
Greeting and Blessing:
This is in reply to your letter, specifically your question, “What is my destiny as a Jew?”
Our Sages state that “each and every soul before coming down to this earth was in the presence of G-d’s majesty, (Zohar, vol. II, p. 104b)” and that “the souls (of the Jewish people) are hewn from under the Seat of Glory. (Chagigah 12b)” These statements serve to bring out the essential nature of the soul, its holiness and purity, and the fact that it is completely divorced from anything material or physical; the soul itself, by its very nature, is not subject to any material desires or temptations, as these arise only from the physical body and “animal soul.”
Nevertheless, it was the Creator’s will that the soul – which is “truly a ‘part’ of G-d on High (Tanya, Part I, ch. 2)” – should descend into this coarse, physical world – for scores of years, to be merged with, and confined within, a physical body, in a state and in conditions which are repugnant to its very nature. All this for the sake of a Divine mission which the soul is sent to fulfill, namely, by permeating them with G-dliness, to purify and spiritualize the physical body and its environment, and to make this world an abode for the shechinah [Tanhuma, Naso 16:1]. This can be done only through a life of Torah and mitzvoth.
When the soul fulfills this mission, all the incidental pain and suffering connected with its descent to, and life on, this earth are not only justified, but infinitely outweighed by the great reward and everlasting bliss which the soul enjoys in the hereafter.
From the above, one can easily appreciate the tragic consequences that flow from disregarding the soul’s mission on earth. For in doing so, one condemns the soul to a term of useless suffering not compensated for, nor nullified by, that everlasting happiness which G-d had intended for it. Even where there are brief interludes of religious activity, in the study of Torah and the practice of mitzvoth, it is sad to contemplate how often such activity is marred by the lack of real enthusiasm and inner joy, the individual in question not realizing that these are the activities which justify existence.
Aside from missing the crucial point through failure to take advantage of the opportunity to fulfill G-d’s will, thus forfeiting the everlasting benefits to be derived therefrom, it is contrary to sound reason to choose that side of life which accentuates the enslavement and degradation of the soul, which rejecting the good that is inherent in it, namely, the great ascent that is destined to come from the soul’s descent.
Ascent & Descent
It will now become eminently clear what our Sages meant when they said, “No man commits a sin unless he has been stricken with the ‘spirit of folly.’ (Sotah 3a).” It calls for no great profundity of thought to realize that, since “life is compulsory, (Avot 4:22)” and since the soul, which is a “part” of G-d on High, compelled to descend into “a frame of dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27; Tanya, part IV, ch. 15),” the proper thing to do is to make the most of the soul’s sojourn on earth; only a life, whose every aspect is permeated by the Torah and mitzvoth can make this possible.
It is also abundantly clear that since G-d, Who is the essence of goodness, compels the soul to descend from “sublime heights to the lowest depths (Chagigah 5b),” for the purpose of the study of the Torah and the fulfillment of the mitzvoth, the value of Torah and mitzvoth must be commensurate with that essential goodness.
Furthermore, “the descent of the soul for the purpose of ascent” shows that there is no way to obtain the objective except through the soul’s descent and the length of time that it must dwell on the earth. If there were an easier way, then surely G-d would not compel the soul to descend from the sublime heights of the Seat of Glory down to this, the nethermost of all the world.
For only while here, and only from here, in the profoundest depths, can the soul attain its highest ascent, higher even than that of the angels – as our Sages say, “Tzaddikim [the righteous] occupy a higher level than the ministering angels (Rashi, Numbers 23:23).”
Coming to Joy
Reflecting upon the greatness of the Torah and mitzvoth, particularly as they pertain to our worldly existence; reflecting also upon the fact that the Torah and mitzvoth are the only means to attain the soul’s perfection and the fulfillment of the Divine purpose, one can come to find a deep and authentic joy in the contemplation of his fate and his destiny, despite the many difficulties and handicaps, from within and without, that are inevitably encountered in his sojourn on this earth.
And only in such a spirit can we hope to respond to the injunction: “Serve G-d with joy (Psalms 100:2),” which the Baal Shem Tov made one of the foundations of his teachings. (The latter is indeed a cornerstone of Chabad philosophy and is given great emphasis by its founder, the Alter Rebbe – whose liberation we commemorate on the 19th of Kislev – in his monumental work, the Tanya, Part I, ch. 26:31.)