The Purpose of Creation - Conclusion
That is why I believe Moses would have been in at least general agreement with Hasdai Crescas. [12] [13] [14] 

The reader will recall that I set out above to identify both the purpose that God has for His creation and our individual purpose within His creation. The former of these is found in part 8 of the explanation, and reads: God's ultimate purpose in creating is that He shall have the experience of perfect and eternal love in relation with those of His creatures who are endowed with the capacity to love Him. The latter ends part 9 of the explanation, and reads: Therefore the individual purpose of each and every one of us is to love God as fully as we are able.

As for the Shema, twice every day, morning and evening, Jews give pride of place in their lives to their affirmation that God is one in His Person and perfect in unity in the condition of His existence (Deut.6:4), and, although they might not be aware of it, they follow this affirmation with a declaration of the purpose of each and every person in Creation (Deut.6:5), which purpose is implicit in the understanding that God is one in His Person and perfect in unity in the condition of His existence. This seems to me to be an excellent way to begin and end every day, indeed the perfect way to do so, and so it appears to me that by any reasonable and objective standard Moses and Judaism have got this exactly right.  [15]

To love God is one of the 613 commandments traditionally identified in the Torah. However, we are also commanded to fear God (Deut.4:10, 6:13, 10:20), and some might understandably wonder how these two commandments can be reconciled, especially in the same person and at the same time. Indeed some people might wonder why anyone should fear God at all. That He has complete power over the whole of Creation is obviously good enough reason to fear Him, but many will know from experience that those who pay no heed to God are not directly struck down, and the possibility of being struck down in some manner after they die is apparently too remote to be persuasive. However, I believe there is a much better reason to fear God, especially for those who already love Him. That reason finds expression in the concept of Devekut, the mystical cleaving to God, which in Kabbalah refers to the experience of both loving God and fearing Him.  [16]

Many people wish to get as close as possible to God while they are alive, and for the thinker the effort to do so includes thinking our way towards Him. I take it as axiomatic that the more we understand of God through contemplation the more do we know Him in reality, and the more we know Him in reality the greater will be His presence in our lives, and the greater His presence in our lives the greater an impact will His Personal reality make upon us. Under certain circumstances, that impact can be so great as to cause us to experience fear. I believe that the experience of fearing God is an entirely natural response to an authentic encounter with the infinitely impressive Personal reality that is God. Perhaps this fear is the experience of one who is limited encountering the One who is unlimited, of the finite encountering The Infinite. Or perhaps it is the experience of the creature encountering the ineffably awesome mystery and perfection of their Creator. Whatever the reason, I do believe it is both entirely natural and deeply spiritually healthy to experience fear of God.

When contemplating God causes the thinker to experience fear, I believe that fear will in time always result in an increase in love for Him. I say so because when we experience fear of God through contemplation, we do so because we have come to understand Him more fully, and in that greater understanding we encounter Him more fully, and in that fuller encounter we grow in love for Him because, after all, He is perfect. Perhaps that is why it is written that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Prov.1:7, 2:5, 9:10).

The simultaneous experience of loving and fearing God is amongst the finest I have known, and although frightening is very beautiful. That is why I have no doubt that the commandment to fear God is not only reasonable but also highly desirable, and second only in desirability to loving Him. To love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our might is in my opinion and without any doubt the ultimate purpose of all of our strivings.

 

June 15th 2012

 

Footnote number 13-17:

 [12] Crescas H., Sefer Or Adonai. The Sefer Or Adonai is not available in English, but substantial extracts of it are available in: Wolfson H., Crescas' Critique of Aristotle, (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1929). An extract from Wolfson's text is available at: http://www.dvjc.org/discussion/messages/323.html, where you will find the following: "Just as objects produced by men have a purpose, so the Torah, produced by the Prime Intellect (God), must have purpose. It is the purpose of the Torah to effect in the one to whom it is addressed love for man, correct opinions, and physical felicity, which are all subsumed under one final goal—spiritual felicity, the infinite love for God. But even for God, the Commander, the Torah has a purpose, namely to bestow His infinite love upon His creatures. Against both Platonism and Aristotelianism, Crescas argues that God's love for man is stronger than man's love for God, for God's infinite essence is the source of both loves. Man's love for God results in devekut ("conjunction" or "communion") with God; for among spiritual beings, as well as among physical objects, love and concord are the causes of perfection and unity. Love, the purpose of Torah, is the purpose also of man, and, further, of all that is".

 [13] To read what Maimonides has to say about the purpose of creation, see: Maimonides M., Guide of the Perplexed, Part 3, Ch.13 (XIII), available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp149.htm.

The following are extracts from his essay on the subject, and a brief analysis of it. His words are in italics and my comments in brackets.

Page 1....."Intelligent persons are much perplexed when they inquire into the purpose of the Creation. I will now show how absurd this question is." (His opening words.)
Line 2....."An agent that acts with intention must have a certain ulterior object in that which he performs. This is evident, and no philosophical proof is required." (Here, despite his opening words, he appears to be acknowledging that God must have created with a purpose.)
Line 9....."According to these propositions it is clear that the purpose is sought for everything produced intentionally by an intelligent cause; that is to say, a final cause must exist for everything that owes its existence to an intelligent being" (Again he seems to be acknowledging that there must be an ultimate purpose to creation, because God is 'an intelligent agent'.)
Page 273, L.8....."But the existence of an ultimate purpose in every species, which is considered as absolutely necessary by every one who investigates into the nature of things, is very difficult to discover: and still more difficult is it to find the purpose of the whole Universe" (This is where his difficulty with the subject becomes apparent, and where his thinking begins to go astray. Maimonides evidently hadn't made sense of the purpose of creation to his own satisfaction, and in order not to leave his readers in a state of perplexity he did the only other thing he could do, which was to set about demonstrating that there is no purpose to creation.)
Page 274, L.5..... "Even if the Universe existed for man's sake and man existed for the purpose of serving God, as has been mentioned, the question remains, what is the end of serving God? He does not become more perfect if all His creatures serve Him and comprehend Him as far as possible; nor would He lose anything if nothing existed beside Him" (Note that Maimonides here considers the possibility of man having been created for a purpose, but his conception of God was such that he could not consider a true relationship between God and man, for which see Guide Ch.52 (LII) p.71 at http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp062.htm. Maimonides thought of God primarily in terms of His essential (metaphysical) perfection, and I believe did so to the detriment of His Personal perfection. Of course we do not have any effect upon God's essential perfection, but we must have an effect upon His Personal experience of perfection or else we wouldn't be here, as I have explained above.)
Page 274, L.10....."We must in continuing the inquiry as to the purpose of the creation at last arrive at the answer, It was the Will of God, or His Wisdom decreed it; and this is the correct answer" (At this stage it is clear that Maimonides has in fact given up discovering the purpose of creation.)Page 276, L.7....."Just as we do not ask what is the purpose of God's existence, so we do not ask what was the object of His will, which is the cause of the existence of all things with their present properties" (With sincere respect to Maimonides, this statement is nonsense. The question of God's existence having a purpose is not only inadmissible; it is absurd. It is absurd because even to entertain the notion of a purpose beyond God is to posit a cause for the being of God, which is in turn to posit the existence of a creator of God, which is in turn to posit a god beyond God, which is absurd. The question of why God created has no rational connection with this absurdity, and so this association is very misleading. I should stress that Maimonides was aware of the absurdity of considering a purpose for God's existence, and my criticism of him here is only that he should not have associated this absurdity with the entirely valid and extremely important question of God's purpose in creating simply in order to discredit this question.)
Page 277, L.5......"We must be content, and not trouble our mind with seeking a certain final cause for things that have none" (In his concluding statement.)

 [14] For an anthology of Jewish writings on the subject of the purpose of creation, see: Alter M., What Is The Purpose Of Creation, A Jewish Anthology, (NJ: Jason Armstrong Inc., 1995).  Note that Crescas' opinion in not included in this anthology.

 [15] For the importance of these verses in Judaism and a selection of commentaries on them, see: Chill A., The Mitzvot, The Commandments And Their Rationale (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 2000), pp.371-373.   For a more detailed and Orthodox treatment, complete with Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic sources, see: Zlotowitz M., Shema Yisrael, The Three Portions Of The Shema, (NY: Mesorah Publications Ltd., 2004), pp.14-24.

 [16] See Scholem G., Encyclopedia Judaica CD-ROM Edition→Kabbalah→The Basic Ideas of Kabbalah→The Mystic Way→Devekut, (Jerusalem, Keter Publishing House Ltd.).   See also: Deuteronomy 10:20, 11:22, 13:5 and 30:19-20.