Why Live a Torah Life?

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Why live a Torah life? The answer is not simple, or brief. This is not to say the answer is difficult. Rather, the answer includes a number of principles and considerations. If we follow the path reason, we realize that Judaism is designed by God; that it perfectly compliments our human natures; and that a life of Torah Judaism offers us the most rewarding and fulfilling existence. 

Our emotional tendencies were surely affected during our upbringing. Our natures, and those who nurtured us, contribute to who we are today. It is crucial that we accept the affect of emotional influence, that these emotions conflict with reason, and this must be addressed in order to accept truths, untainted by emotion. For this reason, the Rabbis taught that we must educate only those who have proper character traits. Otherwise, we can try to teach, but a person with poor traits will reject education based on his or her emotional biases. We will have wasted our time.

Happiness. It's what each person desires. But does having a desire demand we follow it? How do we determine this? If we should, and happiness is a worthwhile pursuit...how do we achieve true happiness?  And can I avoid fooling myself in my search for happiness? Just as we follow a rational path to attain other goals, we must do so in our spiritual and emotional lives. Certain causes have very definite effects on our plans. Other causes have no affect. To arrive at any objective, we must engage in only those causes proven to achieve a desired outcome. To choose causes that cannot produce desired results, is foolish...regardless of the deluded masses who assume otherwise.

Happiness is a state where our primary needs are satisfied. They include health, shelter, financial stability, self-esteem, friends, morality and understanding. If any of these are lacking or absent, we are unhappy. Of these, the satisfaction of more primary needs leads to greater happiness. While we need friends, we are less concerned about them when we are starving. And even with ample food and friends, we feel empty if we do not engage our souls and our minds. Regarding this central part – our mind – man senses this is truly his mark of distinction; what elevates us above animals. Man feels most insulted when called stupid, as opposed to poor or sloppy. Intelligence defines man, more than other considerations. 

Additionally, we can only eat so much, and partake in pleasures only so often until we tire or sense pain. But the pursuit of wisdom and understanding can be sustained, and also offers the greatest rewards. For this reason, the Aristotles, Freuds, Einsteins and Maimonides of the world pursued wisdom over all else. They were known to be captivated by scientific problems for weeks on end, something we never hear about in connection with physical pleasures. This must draw our interest, if these wise men found such captivation and fulfillment while studying God's universe and His Torah. If they could find the deepest satisfaction in these pursuits, others can too. We share one common design.

But there is an advantage possessed by the Torah student...we have direct communication from the Creator. No other people lay claim to an event witnessed by masses, incorporating supernatural phenomena, and God's communication addressing those masses from amidst flames. The survival of this transmission through today attests to the reality of that event. For no fantastic claim of mass attendance will be accepted and then transmitted, without proof. No people numbering 2.5 million would repeat the words referring to Sinai, "Lest you forget what your eyes saw", unless they saw it. While other religions "claim" miraculous events without proof, they lack mass witnesses; they demand blind faith and some possess conflicting accounts of their presumed histories. Other religions do not possess proof.

In contrast, Judaism possesses a single history spanning thousands of years with only one version. Astonishing events witnessed by millions, thereby dispelling fabrication of distortion. Even others accept our Torah as truth. They cannot deny historical fact. Torah histories – namely Revelation at Sinai –  would never have reached us today, had they never occurred. The Torah's sustained, verbal transmission validates Torah Judaism as the only God-given system. Had Moses been an impostor, attempting to proliferate lies of a miracle attended by masses, telling a people "You were there"...not one person would agree to being where he or she was not. Not one person would replace his or her true history with Moses' fabrication. Certainly, Moses' lies would not become the singular history of those people 3000 years later. However, we possess one miraculous transmission, and no other history, since Torah is accurate.

God taught us how to live the greatest life. He gifted us with commands – each one targeting the good for mankind. Communal laws foster harmony and security. Monetary laws direct us to exact fairness and protect ownership. Moral laws remove questions of when life begins, and when to take or preserve a life, and when punishment or reward is warranted. And the philosophic commands like Tzitzis, Tefillin and Mezuza engage us in a high level of thought and understanding of the Creator.

We exist because God alone created each of us. He gave us laws, for our own good...to be truly happy. He created "hapiness", so He knows best how man might achieve happiness. God does not need our service, or need anything. His creation of mankind obligates each of us in His laws. We exist for a reason. And fulfilling that objective entitles us to continued life. It behooves us to study Torah, to learn from the patriarchs, the matriarchs and the Prophets, and to understand how the study and performance of each command contributes to our happiness, and eternal life. And as we study, we experience the most enjoyable life, since the process of discovery in Torah study is unmatched by any other pursuit. 

You must experience this discovery to accept this as true. So do so.