Man’s Significance

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: After viewing a documentary about the Universe, I realized Earth is so microscopic on the scale of the solar system. Compared to the galaxies, it is actually insignificant, as we ascend higher and higher into the ever-increasing bigness of the Universe. This now brings me to how myopic Judaism and most earthly religion on Earth is: the focus of Judaism is on Israel, a particular land, and a small insignificant people in collective human history. Why is Judaism so earthly conscious? What about heaven, the infinite realm of the infinite Creator, what about the afterlife? If Earth is so tiny looking down from interstellar galaxies, what about our eternal destiny with the Creator? Where are we going to be a billion years from now?

Rabbi: King David shared the same sentiment:

When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You set in place, what is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him? You have made him little less than divine, and adorned him with glory and majesty. You have made him master over Your handiwork, laying the world at his feet, sheep and oxen, all of them, and wild beasts, too; the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever travels the paths of the seas. (Psalms 8:4-9)

But King David did not stop there, he concludes with this: 

O God, our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout Earth! (Psalms 8:10).

Despite his realistic, lowly assessment of man, King David valued God’s will in creating man. Why? Because God gave man the intellect to dominate Earth and all therein. He understood God’s will that however small man is, he is truly elevated due to God’s gift of intellect where man can recognize his Creator, as King David says, “How majestic is Your name throughout Earth!” That very last phrase demonstrates man’s capacity to recognize God’s greatness, and herein lies the worth of earthly existence: that a creature can marvel at God’s wisdom.  

Judaism values man’s earthly stay as this is where man finds the Creator. The magnitude of galaxies do not outshine man’s worth; they are inanimate and cannot recognize God. What is outstanding? It is the amazing reality that God bestowed the intellect and Torah upon a species so they can find astonishment in God’s wisdom through creation and Torah. All else—regardless of their magnitude—are inanimate. 

Judaism values Torah study over all else, making the Jew mankind’s teacher and prized nation. Thus, the Jew, his save haven of Israel and his time on Earth play a central role in God’s will for mankind. And mankind is God’s will in creating Earth. 

If the Jew is wise, he will fulfill God’s will to share Torah with the world. And if man is wise, he will preserve his afterlife and destiny with God for all eternity by using his time on Earth as God willed him to do, by studying the universe and Torah. 

Reader: What a beautiful answer. Thanks so much for your reply. It is humbling realizing the greatness of the Universe and also realizing how amazing and great the Being behind it is all going to be. God bless.