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Soul Meetings



What is the
purpose of life?

A letter from the year 1951

Blessing and Greetings:

Your visit some time ago gave me the pleasant opportunity of touching upon an important topic, which deserved more time than I had at my disposal. I trust that the next few lines may put the subject in bolder relief to make up for the unavoidable brevity.

Any thinking person must -frequently ask himself, "What is my life's purpose?"

This question occurs more frequently and with greater force In the minds of the studying youth, who dedicate a number of their best years to study and preparation for their future life lying still fully ahead of them. Moreover, adolescents have untapped, resources of energy and enthusiasm which they eagerly desire to put to good advantage. To than the question of their life's purpose is more urgent and vital than to people of maturer years.

To us Jews - the People of the Book - this question is of still greater importance. The meaning of the epithet is not merely that we are a people of education and learning in general, for "The Book" refers to the Torah (Bible) with which we are identified. Torah means "instruction," "guidance," for the Torah is our guide in life. The Torah makes us constantly aware of our duties in life; it gives us a true definition of our life's purpose, and it shows us the ways and means of attaining this goal.

The life's purpose of every Jew, man or woman, has been clearly defined as far back as the Revelation at Mount Sinai more than 32 and a half centuries ago, when we received the Divine Torah and became a nation. We were then ordained as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." This means that every one of us must be holy in our private life; and in our association with the outside world every one of us, man or woman, must fulfill priestly functions. The priest's function is to "bring" G-d to the people, and to elevate the people to be nearer to G-d. Similarly, every Jew and Jewess fulfill their personal and "priestly "duties by living a life according to the Torah.

The extent of one's duty is in direct proportion to one's station in life. It is all the greater in the case of on individual who occupies a position of some prominence, which gives him, or her, an opportunity to exercise influence over others, especially over youths. Such persons must fully appreciate the privilege and responsibility which Divine Providence vested in them to spread the light of the Torah and to fight darkness whereever and in whatever form it may rear its head.

This is your duty and privilege as one of the student officers in relation to your coreligionist colleagues and student body in general. I should also like to convey this message to your colleagues in the JCF. You are all no doubt aware of this, but perhaps there is room for added emphasis and the conviction that "it cannot be otherwise."

No Jewish individual ought to be satisfied with the fact that as far as he personally is concerned he is doing his best to improve himself. He owes it to the next fellow to help him improve himself, too.

Nor should discouragement or a spirit of defeatism be permitted to creep into one's mind, such as "What can I do? I am alone in the field," etc. Our father Abraham has taught us what one individual can achieve. For "one was Abraham, yet he inherited all the earth" (Ezekiel 33:24). Our age, while some people prefer to call the Atomic Age, has further demonstrated that in the minutest quantity of matter tremendous stores of energy may be found. All that is necessary is to discover them and then harness these stores of energy to constructive purposes, and not, G-d forbid, otherwise.

In the light of the motto, often used by my late father- in-law of sainted memory, that "A Jew neither desires, nor can he be severed from G-d," I feel sure that the thoughts expressed in the above brief lines will find their proper response in your heart and in the hearts of your colleagues and friends.

Needless to say, I shall always be glad to received good news of your progress in that direction.

Cordially, M. Schneersohn

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