Let My People Know

"The aim of man is not to do holy duties and to be an angel on earth" –Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Every verse in the Bible is so full of life and humanity that one can say the Bible is a complete picture of man. 

Studying the Bible we find that all of it–the stories and the religious commandments–are equally intended for a living people, full of wishes and desires, for the average man who is liable to sin, showing him the way to repentance and reelevation.

Just the collection of the various books of the Bible is a demonstration in itself of full humanity. 

He who does not understand this essentiality of the Bible will never understand why it contains a book like Ecclesiastes, which seems so unsuitable to the general character of the Bible. 

But man, who is not perfectly angelic, has within himself the same questions, doubts, and skepticism that are contained in the book of Ecclesiastes. 

These "heretic" questions are not ignored, and the entire book remains in the Bible.

The true Jewish way is that of human exaltation. 

From the Pentateuch to the Last Prophets, from the Talmud to the great rabbis of Chasidism, there is an attempt to deal with a whole man, a man in whom part of the wholeness is his being combined of body and soul, bad and good. 

All the duties of Judaism are for a man, a physical and restricted creature. 

And for this reason there are also certain laws that are only for the satisfaction of the bestial desires of man. 

That is not negative in any sense because, since man is imperfect, there must be a real relation to sin. 

"You must stoop to him if you want to elevate him."

This way is not a necessary evil but an ideal way in itself.
In a more general sense, the aim of man is not to do holy duties and to be an angel on earth. 

Man's task is to "reveal God's being in the lower world"–and this is done by elevating the base and low elements and exalting them. 

The lowest elements in the world are, essentially and originally, of the highest sources, because only very holy and great souls can enliven mean creations, and the task of man is to bring these souls back to their exalted origin.

And so man has not to elevate his soul, because it is already high without man's efforts.

His task is to elevate his body, his intellect, his desires. 

The human being is to give all his essence to God, but not by elevating his mind to higher subjects and converting his desires into a desire for God. 

The real way is higher: to find God in all these thoughts and desires, to be a whole man–but to a higher degree.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From "Human Holiness," p.41 in The Strife of the Spirit by Rabbio Adin Steinsaltz