Practical and mystical Judaism converge on this point. Man’s most essential question as a living human being is “Why are we here?”. Every thinking person must ask this question sooner or later. The Torah’s answer to this question is the very heart and soul of everything in the Torah. What could possibly be the point of all the commandments if they don’t fulfill this purpose? We often view the commandments as being a set of rules for a healthy society, and they certainly are. Society is more civilized when no one steals, kills, rapes, etc. They are good for society, but that is the most superficial level of the Torah. They do so much more.
There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Each one is a conduit or method of becoming one with God. We see that cleaving to God or imitating God is a general theme in the Torah, as it says in Deuteronomy 10:12, “..what does God, your Lord, ask of you? To be in awe of God, your Lord, to walk in His ways…” It also says in Deut. 11:22, “..love God, your Lord, to walk in His ways and to cling to Him.” (see also Deut. 10:20, 13:5, 28:9) Philosophically speaking, the intention of the Creator in His creation was to give another being the greatest possible good and ultimate pleasure. As God is the source of infinite good and bliss, the greatest possible good and pleasure is to be a part of Him. To be given this good without any effort would be lacking in the essential quality of God that He Himself was not given goodness. The closest we can come to this is to earn it. That defines the purpose of our creation but not the method. The method of us earning this greatest good is the struggle in a realm seemingly devoid of God, and striving to be one with Him. By fulfilling the commandments we are perfecting ourselves, emulating God, and becoming one with God all at the same time. The period of struggle is a finite one, and the period of experiencing what we have accomplished is infinite. In the end we must come out of the realm of illusion where God is not apparent, and go into the realm of reality. One act of goodness done by us, a simple “Have a nice day” when said with sincerity, makes us more Godly, and brings more Godliness into the world. A spiritual perspective on the commandments is to look at each one as a way of making God’s oneness more evident in the world. The kabbalists even have a short phrase to say before the performance of a mitzvah to remind them of this, which translates as “For the sake of unifying the Holy One, Blessed is He with His Divine Presence, through He who is hidden and unseen.” Many of the commandments are easily mistaken as mere ritual. However, every so-called ritual act that’s requested from us by God is actually a mystical connection that binds the soul to its source, the Infinite One. For example, on Passover we eat matza ostensibly as a symbol of the exodus from Egypt. The mystical sources say that Abraham, who lived many years before the exodus, also ate matza on the night that would one day be called Passover. He saw past the surface to the spiritual benefit that lies beneath. The matza is an expression of humility. The power of the holiday is the ability to nullify ourselves to God’s will. This power is enhanced and activated through the mitzvah of the matza, which is like a spiritual injection meant to last until the next year. The forefathers’ level of spirituality was so strong they didn’t need to be told to eat matza on that night in the month of Nissan. They understood the mystical significance of all the commandments, and fulfilled them without any obligation.
Why did God create the universe? If He is infinite, then He needs nothing. It could not have been to fill any need or lack in Him. It must be that creation was done for the sake of the created. In order for the created to experience the ultimate gift it must face moral challenges, and struggle to cling to spirituality. This is the way to become Godlike. We need a universe in which to experience these challenges. We need to have the potential for good and evil both inside and out. Why are there people starving in the world? So we will feed them. Why is there evil in the world? So we will fight it. God’s presence also must be somewhat hidden in the world lest we be forced by the power of it into doing His will. The word in Hebrew for universe is “haolam”. This word also means “that which is hidden”. God doesn’t need robots. The essence of our existence is in using our free will to come closer to God. This is the “image of God” that’s mentioned in the Torah.
There is nothing superfluous in the Torah. There is nothing extra in the world. For every human endeavor whether its work, sleep, sex, eating, or anything else, there is a principle of spirituality that the Torah teaches regarding that endeavor. There is a way to elevate the act. All physicality can be used for spirituality. With this in mind the Torah can be used as a spiritual encyclopedia. Man’s personality and life experiences are designed to be the tests of our free will to become one with God.
The study of His will is not only the best way to know how to accomplish the task of our existence; it is also the act that carries with it the greatest ability to make us Godlike. Torah study is the mitzvah that can change us, elevate us, and sanctify us the utmost. This explains the intrinsic relationship between God, man, and Torah. It has to be that the Torah is called God’s name, as we mentioned previously, because it is the instruction manual of how to connect to God. The study of Kabbalah, which is the closest thing to studying God himself, is the most potent and holy aspect of Torah study. This is the perspective to have whenever engaged in the study of Jewish mysticism, you are making your mind and soul one with your Creator.