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Life On Other Planets

by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

  

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The current news raging about the strong possibility of life on Mars has provoked discussion in all circles. The religious implications of the prospect of extraterrestrial life are particularly interesting.

But while we ponder this phenomenon and its many ramifications, there arises an intriguing question: Are there any references in ancient wisdoms and sacred texts to life on other planets? Perhaps more importantly: Is the search for extraterrestrial life just an exercise in curiosity, or is it important to our lives as human beings on this Earth?

It may seem surprising, but on one rare occasion the Grand Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a foremost religious authority and visionary of our times, discussed this issue in detail.

The Rebbe was known for both his intense knowledge of Bible and Talmud and his secular scholarship having graduated Berlin University and the Sorbonne with advanced degrees in the sciences. He often addressed timely events and scientific developments, and in his unique style would explain the personal and practical applications of any given issue.

Science, essentially, uncovers the divine secrets of nature that have lain hidden in existence from the beginning of time
In the summer of 1969, after the second landing on the moon, the Rebbe addressed the topic of extraterrestrial life. Citing his fundamental belief that the Torah -- the Bible -- is the spiritual blueprint of the universe, the Rebbe explained that delving into the Bible can yield allusions or even direct references to scientific discoveries. After all, science, essentially, uncovers the divine secrets of nature that have lain hidden in existence from the beginning of time.

In the case of extraterrestrial life the Bible clearly refers to its possibility, and even to its actuality. In the book of Judges, chapter 5, the prophetess Devora sings a song of praise to God for helping Barak win his battle against his enemy Sisera. In verse 20 she sings: "The stars in their course fought against Sisera." And then in verse 23 she continues: "Curse Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse bitterly its inhabitants, because they did not come to the help of the Lord...against the mighty men."

And who is this Meroz? According to one opinion in the Talmud -- the authoritative oral interpretation of the Biblical texts -- Meroz is a planet.1  Accordingly, the "inhabitants" of "Meroz" indicates life on another planet.

The context in which the reference to Meroz is found compels the Talmud to define it as a planet (and not as a neighboring city), as it is preceded by the verse that states "the stars in their course fought against Sisera." Thus, it follows that Meroz refers to a celestial body whose inhabitants did not come to Barak’s aid.

Another issue Rabbi Schneerson addressed was the personal implications should extraterrestrial life be found. In keeping with his message that we must utilize any new discoveries for constructive personal growth, the Rebbe applied this to the search for other life.

Footnotes

  • 1. Moed Katan 16a.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

G-d » Creation

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
Lubavitch
Also known as “Chabad,” Lubavitch is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. “Lubavitch” is the name of the Belarusian city where four of the Chabad Rebbes (leaders) were based. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York, with branches worldwide. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.