Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought

By Martin Sicker | Go to book overview

5

The Meaning of Human Existence

It seems reasonable to assume that whatever is consciously and deliberately brought into being must be intended to serve some preconceived end. The validity of this assumption has generally been borne out by human experience. While one cannot speak with any authority about matters that transcend the domain of such experience, there seems to be no self-evident reason why the assumption should not be considered equally applicable to the biblical supposition of a created universe. This raises the question of the divine intention and purpose in the creation of the universe in general and man in particular. It is perhaps the most significant question a person may ever ask since it concerns the reason for human existence. It is also a question to which no one has as yet formulated a convincing or even generally acceptable answer.

It would seem that the question of the divine intent was clearly also a matter of some concern to the biblical authors, even though they generally did not attempt to deal with it explicitly in their works. One biblical writer did seek to respond to it, albeit somewhat evasively, by suggesting that, the Lord hath made every thing for His own purpose (Prov. 16:4). The implication of this statement is that, irrespective of whether or not we can ascertain and comprehend it, we are justified in assuming that everything that exists in a divinely created universe must have an intrinsic purpose. Accordingly, the sages of the Talmud taught: “Of all that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He did not create a single thing without purpose.” 1 In effect, as Moses Luzzatto argued, they were asserting quite unequivocally that each and every created thing, no matter how seemingly insignificant, was brought into being because divine wisdom deemed it essential to the fulfillment of God’s overall purpose in the creation of the universe. 2 The truth of this fundamental proposition was con-

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Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • 1 - The Judaic Conception of God 1
  • 2 - The Temporal or Prophetic Paradigm 21
  • 3 - The Experience of the Divine 41
  • 4 - Man, the Universe, and the Creator 57
  • 5 - The Meaning of Human Existence 75
  • 6 - Man in the Image 89
  • 7 - Man and Providence 97
  • 8 - Man’s Moral Autonomy 109
  • 9 - The Good and Evil Impulses 129
  • 10 - Divine Omniscience and Moral Autonomy 149
  • 11 - Resolving Rabbi Akiba’s Paradox 165
  • 12 - The Question of Divine Justice 189
  • 13 - Theodicy in Judaic Thought 201
  • 14 - Divine Justice and Human Justice 229
  • Bibliography 239
  • Index 255
  • About the Author 261
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