Last week we looked at what Islam proposes as man purpose in life. This week we will look at Judaism.
What's Your Problem?
According to Judaism, man is not suffering from cosmic amnesia; he is not by default morally imperfect (man is capable of both good and evil, but does not lean one way or the other), nor is he unenlightened. Judaism holds that man is simply separated from God and should come back to God. As with Islam, I will not argue against this being a problem of man (once again, though, I would argue it is part of a much larger problem, which I will get to next week), so I have no problem granting that this problem is reflected by reality.
How to Come Back to God?- The Solution
The way is worship of Yahweh (God). Worship of Yahweh is practiced by living a life of holiness as prescribed in the Torah (first five books of the Bible). Like in Islam, the goal is 100% following, but it is not required. A Jew may sincerely ask Yahweh for forgiveness for past unholy behavior against Yahweh and be forgiven. This means that the part of life that requires the 50%+ of following the Torah is from the point of forgiveness until death- the past in not taken into consideration. This certainly makes accomplishing the goal more attainable by more people than in Islam.
The issue, though, is that this idea seems to overlook the fact that man is full of unholiness. Yahweh spoke these words through the prophet Jeremiah about the human heart: "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (17:9) Even if a person were to be forgiven of past transgressions, the heart is in a default position of "desperately wicked", which is far from any level of holiness. At the point of forgiveness, the heart is still unholy. This also is not speaking of a specific individual's heart, but the heart of humanity as a whole.
Simply by the condition of the human heart, man is not able to make himself holy before Yahweh. It seems that this stands in contrast to the idea that humanity really has no moral problem. The problem is the heart of man. Since man's heart is corrupt by its nature, it cannot be holy. Man is not able to be holy. The lack of holiness is what keeps us from Yahweh, and if that lack cannot be removed, then we are kept separated from Yahweh.
Jeremiah continues with his words from Yahweh: "But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (17:10) Yahweh makes it clear that He does know the heart of man, and judges man based upon it- this lack of holiness does not escape Yahweh's notice.
Judaism may be correct that we are separated from God, but the solution of worshiping Yahweh does not change the fact that Yahweh knows that the human heart is not capable of holiness and judges based on the actions, which are a result of the posture of the heart. Forgiveness is offered for past unholy acts, but it must be renewed with every unholy act. Because of the unholiness of man's heart and his constant asking for forgiveness, he is constantly being separated from and reunited with God. If the default position of the human heart is unholy, how long before the heart overrides the forgiveness and separates itself from God again? It seems the answer could easily be "seconds" or lower. The status of the person at the precise moment of death will determine their eternal destiny. If the default position of the human heart causes it to become separated from God in seconds, then even asking forgiveness while on the death bed is not likely to make the person holy long enough to spend eternity in Yahweh's presence- the solution proposed will not work.
This brings us to Christianity; which will be the final installment of this series, next week.
I used The Illustrated World Religions by Houston Smith for the majority of the information in this post. More info was gleaned from the third-party site Wikipedia- articles here.