Two Conservative rabbis give their take on this big life question:
Why were we created?
Rabbi Ari Kaiman, Congregation Shearith Israel in Atlanta, Georgia
“When God created the universe through speech, God created us B’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We were created to further the project of God’s creation. We further creation through our unique gift of human speech.
We are able to see our creative power at work everywhere we look; the building that surrounds us was created through human speech, the device that we are using to read this was created through human speech and these words that I’m writing, are obviously, human speech.
If we don’t keep God in mind as we utilize our creative power of speech, our creations might destroy God’s creation. That’s why God scattered our language at the Tower of Babel, because with universal language (math, science, music, etc.) there “is nothing out of our reach” (Genesis 11:6). We are wise to remember that power to create in our own self-interest, is also the power to destroy God’s creation.
God requires our partnership to further the project of creation. With our gift of language, we sustain life with chesed, we feed the hungry, we clothe the poor, we support one another. We create the possibility for God’s Name to be “magnified and sanctified” (Kaddish).
So if there is injustice in the world causing destruction, speak. If there is something new within your power to create, speak. If there is God given beauty within you, share it and speak. As you speak, if you place God before you always (Psalm 16:8), the work of creation continues.”
Rabbi Betsy Forester, Beth Israel Center in Madison, Wisconsin
“The staggeringly humbling aspect of being human is not knowing why we are here. We are created without knowing the meaning of our lives or our deaths, with little control over either. From that reality stem two orienting perspectives. On one end, our lives are meaningless, and it would have been better had we not been created at all (BT Eruvin 13b). On the other, we are created in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27), occupying a spiritual rung just below the angels (Psalms 8:5). In that vein, our sages obligate every person to say: ‘The entire world was created for me’ (Sanhedrin 37a).
As humans, we grasp the edges of a reality beyond us from which flow our most enduring, endearing and elevated characteristics—altruism, hope, the ability to be moved by beauty, emotions such as hope, love, compassion, altruism, the capacity for original thought and to intuit our unique, life path. We are wired to seek meaning and purpose. Our tradition exhorts us to hold ourselves accountable, place ourselves on a course of ongoing self-refinement and build a world of compassion and justice. We are capable of participating in Creation in myriad ways, and in sensitive moments, we feel called to lend our ideals to the space between what is real and what is possible.
Our creation is a gift of love to which we should respond with radical wonder, gratitude and love. With God’s help, those dispositions move us to create a world of compassion and justice.
The question ‘Why were we created?’ is a human question. I believe we are meant to live in it, every moment, with the conviction that it matters.”
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