(Third in a series summarizing the book Halachic Man)
Halachic man doesn’t long for transcendence. The point of creating an ideal world is only so that it can be actualized in this world.
The priority of this world over a transcendent world is evident from the high value Judaism places on life. Torah embraces and sanctifies life. Death brings impurity. Happiness, not mourning is the symbol of life and holiness.
In this life a person can do God’s will, be productive, make changes and improve the world. Making a better world is a higher ideal than basking in reward of the transcendent world.
It is told that when Moses went up Mt. Sinai to get the Torah the angels said to God: “What is this human doing among us?” God instructed Moses to answer them: “Were you enslaved in Egypt? Do you do any work that would make it relevant for you to rest on the Sabbath? Do you have a father and mother to honor? Do you have jealousies and drives that would make it necessary to warn you ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal’? They admitted that they did not. Moses explained, God does not want to give Torah to transcendent beings. God gave Torah to Moses who would bring it down to earth, where it can be actualized.
Because of this love of life, saving a life is a higher priority than any other Torah obligation. Maimonides explains that if a person’s life is in danger we don’t hesitate to contravene the laws of the Sabbath in order to save him, and he explains that we learn from this that “the Torah laws are not vengeance in the world, but compassion and loving-kindness and peace in the world…”
What does loving life mean to you?