Shlomo Ezagui

The Purpose of Life Is to Serve

How does serving God properly, for the right reasons, have anything to do with happiness, meaning, or depression?

Once, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov saw a man running to work in the morning and asked him to come into the Synagogue to be the tenth person. The man insisted he needed to go to work. “What makes you so certain that your work and money (and fulfillment) will be found in that direction?” Rabbi Levi Yitzchok inquired.

Everyone is looking for success and happiness but may need to look for it in the right places.

Pursuing happiness is shallow, short-lived, self-centered, ego-driven, and, ultimately, tiring and depressing. Once the laughs and the pleasure have passed, it is over, and the hunt is on again.

Meaning and purpose are motivated by the deep, long-lasting value of existence. The self becomes transformed and deeply enhanced. Purpose and meaning are outwardly directed, while happiness is self-serving and narcissistic.

The entire mentality of living for and seeking “happiness,” whether in love or anything else, is faulty. People looking for happiness are driven by what they feel they are lacking. “I do the things that bring me joy.” “I get married because I see something in my partner that would enhance my life.” “I take a job with this company because I believe it will help me get what I want at this point in my life.”

One problem with this attitude is that, as our sages tell us, “Any love that is based on an ulterior motive, once the consideration dissolves, so does the love.” When the reason for this pursuit and relationship changes, when the object cannot offer the “benefits,” there goes the (apparent) relationship. 

There is never an authentic bond with the other because, to begin with, it was never the other that was the true focus of the relationship. I, could get what I, wanted from the other person; the focus was always on me, never on the relationship.

Because things are constantly changing, I must subconsciously prepare for this possibility. I live with stress, worry, and anxiousness in the back of my mind, even while trying to enjoy the moment, always knowing consciously or subconsciously things will change On my part and on the part of the other, and on the part of circumstances in life. This relationship isn’t deep or genuine; it’s all transactional, shallow, and has no real meaning. 

As things keep changing, the prize for self-serving happiness needs to be again reconsidered, and once again discovered, a person is under more stress and anxiety, always in a state of lack and uncertainty. There is nothing solid developed.

Once, a chossid came to his Rebbe with a personal question. “Why is life a constant struggle?” “How come there is never fulfillment?” The Rebbe replied, “The purpose of life is – to serve.”

It isn’t necessarily in reaching anywhere in particular or being served. The purpose is, the journey. Service to others, family, and society. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey.

People with a purpose in life who are outwardly focused, whether in marriage or work, see themselves as an essential piece of the puzzle in achieving this greater goal and larger-than-life picture. Life is about elevating and offering oneself up to fulfill a purpose. Life takes on meaning and value. Life is best spent in this more significant and more meaningful existence. Life is about serving. It is about dedication. It is about commitment and loyalty to the purpose.

When people find their purpose in life and live to fulfill it, they add value to themselves and the world with every day and every effort. Their purpose is the meaning and explanation to everything that goes on in their life. Even if the person is having trouble, their actions that align with their purpose keep improving and keep on having value. In fact, the difficulties themselves often enhance their experience of purpose in life.

The definitive way to serve God, the Torah tells us, is to do so out of obedience. We serve because God has told us to serve. It is a service to Him rather than to ourselves.

If we only serve because it makes sense, we are not in a relationship with anyone but ourselves. We constantly need to reassess and change. Life is unpredictable and trying. In the end, we are all alone.

If we serve because that makes God happy, no matter what the object of service happens to be, we have become connected with a greater identity. When a person’s meaning and purpose are met, they automatically and as if by itself, feel a deep and constant sense of joy and appreciation for life’s opportunities.

Chapter 234

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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