Spiritual Tools: Elul: Maharal: The Purpose of Our Existence
The 18th of Elul is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yehuda (ben Betzalel) Loew, the Maharal (1525-1609). Born in Posen, Poland, on the night of the Pesach Seder, to a distinguished family of rabbis that traced its ancestry to King Dovid. He was the youngest of four brothers. The Maharal married at the age of 32 to Pearl. He had six girls and one boy who was named after the Maharal’s father, Betzalel. In 1553 he was elected rabbi of Nikolsburg and the Province of Moravia, where he remained for the following 20 years. In 1573 he moved to Prague, where he opened a yeshiva. In 1592 the Maharal accepted the position of rabbi in Posen, returning to Prague in 1598 to serve as its chief rabbi. The Maharal castigated the educational methods of his day where boys were taught at a very young age and insisted that children must be taught in accordance with their intellectual maturity. One of his leading disciples was R. Yom Tov Heller, author of the classic mishnaic commentary, Tosafos Yom Tov, who, in his introduction informs us that the Maharal greatly encouraged group study of the Mishna. At the same time, he was fully conversant with the scientific knowledge of his time as well as friendly with some of the contemporary eminent scientists. His disciple, Dovid Ganz, worked in the observatory of Tycho Brahe, the distinguished astronomer. He was a prolific writer, and his works include: Tiferes Yisrael on the greatness of Torah and mitzvos; Nesivos Olam, on ethics; Be’er Hagolah, a commentary on rabbinic sayings; Netzach Yisrael, on exile and redemption; Or Chadash, on the book of Esther; Ner Mitzvah, on Chanukah; Gevuros Hashem, on the Exodus; and many others. Rav Kook stated that the “Maharal was the father of the approach of the Gaon of Vilna on the one hand, and of the father of Chasidus, on the other hand.” He has been described as a Kabbalist who wrote in philosophic garb.
All creatures were created because of the good which they embody. Surely the maintenance of the world and the preservation of all creatures is due to the good inherent in them.
As has already been made clear, you must realize that all creatures depend on man, for they were all created for man’s sake. If a man does not live up to his purpose, then all becomes void.
Therefore, man must achieve the good which is his end, thereby justifying his existence, and when his existence has been justified, the whole universe has been justified, since all hinges on man.
Therefore, a person should endeavor to cultivate good qualities. What makes a person good so that one may say of him, “What a fine creature he is?” One requirement is that he must be good in relation to himself.
The second category of good is that he be good toward the Lord Who created man, to serve Him and to do His will.
The third category is that he be good to others. For a person does not exist by himself. He exists in fellowship with other people. When a person acts with kindness toward others there is a bond between him and his fellow man. Thus is a person as God intended him, for he was not created that he alone should exist in the world. (Derech Chaim Page 8b-9b)