We saw in the prior article that the pro-Pauline writer of Galatians chapter 3 stated that the Law was added because of "transgressions." Typically one approaches such a passage with the thought that the "whole" of the Law was added due to sin and never understand the real purpose of the Law and we tried to balance that perspective in the previous article in this series. Now we present a summary statement as to the purpose of the Law as taken from The Way Of God by Moseh C. Luzzatto.
It is often beneficial to listen to what the Rabbis have to say about their Torah. Moshe Luzzatto teaches us that the Torah, understood as God's instruction by way of Laws and Commandments contain patterns and restraints which are called God's commandments. They include both positive commands and prohibitions.
The purpose of each commandment is either to allow man to earn and incorporate in himself a particular level of true excellence, or to remove an area of deficiency and darkness. This is accomplished through doing what the commandments require and avoiding what they forbid.
The nature and details of each individual commandment, however, are based on all the aspects of man's true nature and character, as well as that of the necessary perfection. Each thing then has its conditions and limits as required for man's attaining this perfection.
The Highest Wisdom knows all this, as well as the true nature and purpose of everything that exists. God therefore took everything into account, and included everything necessary in the commandments of the Torah. It is thus written (Deuteronomy 6:24),
"God commanded us to follow all these rules.., that He may grant us good."
Now the root purpose of the entire matter of religious service and worship is to have man constantly aware of his Creator. He is to realize that he was created for the sole purpose of being drawn close to his Creator, and hence he was put into this world only to overcome his Evil Urge and subjugate himself to his Creator through the power of the intellect. He must oppose his physical desire and tendencies, and direct all his activities toward attaining this goal, not deviating from it.
Everything that man should do can be divided into two categories. First, there is what he does as the result of a commandment. The second is what is done out of necessity.
The first category includes all the divine commandments. The second, on the other hand, includes all things that man does in making use of the world to satisfy his needs.
The purpose of the divine commandments, contrary to what the writer of Galatians chapter 3 might think, is found in the desire of God that man should obey God's orders and fulfill His will. In doing so, he conforms to God's will in two interrelated ways.
Man's use of the world for his own needs, however, should also be circumscribed by the limits imposed by God's will and not include anything forbidden by God. It should be motivated by the need to best maintain his health and preserve his life, and not merely to satisfy his physical urges and superfluous desires. One's motivation in maintaining his body should furthermore be so that the soul should be able to use it to serve its Creator, without being hampered by the body's weakness and incapability.
When man makes use of the world in this manner, this in itself becomes an act of perfection, and through it one can attain the same virtue as in keeping the other commandments. Indeed, one of the commandments requires that we keep our bodies fit so that we can serve God, and that we derive our needs from our environment to achieve this goal.
In this maimer, we elevate ourselves even through such activities (the fruit of obeyed commandments). The world itself is also elevated, since it is then also helping man to serve God.
One of the things that one must strengthen within himself is his love and fear of God. He should consider the unimaginable loftiness of God and the great lowliness of man, and humble himself before God, standing in awe before His greatness. He should then yearn and desire to be among those who serve Him, to exult in His praise and be exalted by His greatness.
The love and fear of God] are powerful means which draw an individual close to God. They enlighten the physical darkness in man, cause his soul to radiate in all its brightness, and thus elevate him step by step until he attains a state of closeness to God.
God granted us one particular means which can bring man close to God more than anything else. This is the study of His revealed Torah.
Such study accomplishes this in two ways:
In His love, God composed a volume of words decreed by His wisdom and bestowed it upon us...His Torah. This is the Torah and later works of the Prophets, making up the Bible as we know it.
These words have the unique property of causing one who reads them to incorporate in himself the highest excellence and greatest perfection. The only condition is that they be read with holiness and purity, with the proper intent of fulfilling God's will.
Similarly, when one strives to understand these works, either through his own intellect or through the explanations provided in their commentaries, he can earn even greater perfection, according to his effort. This is even more true when one attains a grasp of the secrets and mysteries contained in these works, since each of these concepts that one understands fixes and integrates a certain degree of the highest levels of excellence and perfection in his soul.
Through all these acts, man not only earns excellence and perfection for himself, but he also elevates and perfects the entire fabric of creation. This is particularly true in the case of the study of the Torah. The Highest Wisdom decreed that every act of observing God's commandments should bring a person closer to God to a particular determined degree. The individual then attains a degree of God's light corresponding to this degree of closeness, and this in turn causes a degree of perfection resulting from that enlightenment to become an integral part of him.
The opposite is true of sin. Every sinful act removes an individual from God by a corresponding degree. This results in bringing him to a certain degree of concealment away from God's light, causing His presence to be correspondingly hidden. As a result of that concealment, a degree of deficiency becomes an integral part of that individual.
We therefore see that the true purpose of the commandments is to turn us toward God, bring ourselves near to Him, and thus be enlightened by His presence. The avoidance of sin likewise enables one to avoid matters that would lead him away from God. This is the true purpose of all the commandments.
The main point of creation was that God wanted to create man, who would then have the task of attaching himself to God, thus to enjoy His true good. This is accomplished through the fact that man has two ways before him, one being good and the other evil; and man has the power to choose whichever he desires. The Torah defines from God's view, the only one that matters, which actions are "good" and "evil" and does not leave it up to man to decide since he is incapable of knowing absolute good due to the affect of sin upon himself and his mind. Thus we need God's definitions on this and we have them in the Torah...the expression of the Highest Good and the Highest Love whereby man is now without excuse as to what to do and how to live. When through his own free will and knowledge he chooses good and rejects evil, then this true everlasting good is given him.
All other things were created only because the Highest Wisdom deemed them necessary in order for the universe to be complete, so that man could exist in the state mentioned above, where he could serve God and thus attain true good. Of course, we do not know why every single thing in the world was necessary. But what we do know from our sages is that the main element in all creation is man, and that all other things were created only for his sake, and furthermore, that the main purpose in man's creation was for him to attain the true good. However, the Highest Wisdom perceived that in order for man to attain this true good he must first be tested and pass his test. For this reason God created a world where he could be tested.
This is the physical world, a place where both good and evil exist, and where man can reject evil and choose good. God gave man the ability to motivate the highest good through his deeds. Man's deeds can therefore draw sustenance from God's holiness and the Light of His good. On the other hand, they can also transmit pollution and corruption. God specified certain deeds in His Torah through which holiness is transmitted, and commanded us to keep them. These are God's Laws. These include all the commandments that we are required to obey. On the other hand, He also specified certain deeds that bring about pollution, and commanded us to abstain from them. These include all things that are forbidden. These are better known as the positive and negative commandments. The greatest love God could give man is the knowledge of these issues and this was accomplished in the giving of His Torah. Instead of giving His Laws because man was sinful God gave them to mankind in order that man might attain his highest good and become attached to God though becoming like God though man's conduct and behavior. Such God-likeness is defined in each of the positive and negative commandments and to the degree man emulates these in his life he draws closer to God and perfects creation with God.
There is only one true good, however, and that is attachment to God. We have already explained that the commandments are the means which transmit the emanation of God's holiness and the Light of His good. These commandments are therefore the means through which true good can be achieved. The individual who sanctifies himself to a great degree with the emanation of God's holiness becomes fitting to be attached to Him and enjoy His true good. On the other hand, the person who corrupts himself with the pollution that we have mentioned becomes unfit to attach himself to God, and is therefore cast away from Him. True good as understood as Godliness and holiness is attained through good deeds and obedience to God's Law. Likewise the absence of the Highest Good is achieved as a result of evil deeds which is the denial of and the absence of obedience to God's Law.
It is also necessary to realize that just as man was given the power to have both holiness and pollution transmitted to himself, so was he given the ability to have holiness or pollution transmitted to all creation through his deeds. Therefore all creation can be either rectified or damaged spiritually because of man. This is counted as a merit for the righteous who benefit creation, and a liability for the wicked who damage it.
Answer for yourself: Understanding this then do you now believer that the writer of Gal. 3:19 was accurate in saying that the Law of God was given because of the transgressions of mankind?
In painting the Law in such negative connotations the writer of Galatians chapter 3 has taken away from his readers the Divine intent of God in giving man His highest love....His Torah...His Law...properly understood as the method by which man might be like God though living and patterning his life after the Laws of God.