Biographies & Memoirs

34. The Goal of Human Existence

OUR AGE IS PROUD of the progress it has made in man’s intellectual development. The search and striving for truth and knowledge is one of the highest of man’s qualities—though often the pride is most loudly voiced by those who strive the least. And certainly we should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead, it can only serve; and it is not fastidious in its choice of a leader. This characteristic is reflected in the qualities of its priests, the intellectuals. The intellect has a sharp eye for methods and tools, but is blind to ends and values. So it is no wonder that this fatal blindness is handed on from old to young and today involves a whole generation.

Our Jewish forbears, the prophets and the old Chinese sages understood and proclaimed that the most important factor in giving shape to our human existence is the setting up and establishment of a goal; the goal being a community of free and happy human beings who by constant inward endeavor strive to liberate themselves from the inheritance of anti-social and destructive instincts. In this effort the intellect can be the most powerful aid. The fruits of intellectual effort, together with the striving itself, in cooperation with the creative activity of the artist, lend content and meaning to life.

But today the rude passions of man reign in our world, more unrestrained than ever before. Our Jewish people, a small minority everywhere, with no means of defending themselves by force, are exposed to the crudest suffering, even to complete annihilation, to a far greater degree than any other people in the world. The hatred raging against us is grounded in the fact that we have upheld the ideal of harmonious partnership and given it expression in word and deed among the best of our people.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!