“It has been proved that moral conduct is a preparation for intellectual progress, and that only a man whose character is pure, calm and steadfast, can attain to intellectual perfection: that is, acquire correct conceptions. …For this science is, as you know, different from the science of Medicine and of Geometry, and, from the reason already mentioned, it is not every person who is capable of approaching it. It is impossible for a man to study it successfully without moral preparation; he must acquire the highest degree of uprightness and integrity…Therefore, it was considered inadvisable to teach it to young men; nay, it is impossible for them to comprehend it, on account of the heat of their blood and the flame of youth, which confuses their minds. That heat, which causes all the disorder, must first disappear; they must have become moderate and settled, humble in their hearts, and subdued in their temperament; only then will they be able to arrive at the highest degree of the perception of God, i.e., the study of Metaphysics, which is called Ma‘aseh Merkavah.” (MN 1:34)
The problem is that the push for survival is instinctual and present in each of us for our own selfish self-preservation even at the detriment of the other. It is not obvious to us that unless we act in a way that protects and promotes the survival of the totality of existence we will self-destruct. It is this instinct that is the cause of wars, environmental destruction and is at the root of many of humanity’s societal ills which hinder its development towards fulfilling its intended role. Furthermore, when faced with ontological questions that require a clear unbiased perspective, narcissistic tendencies cloud our thinking. When there is no concrete evidence to support an answer to an abstract question, we tend to pull in the direction that satisfies egotistical tendencies. This instinct therefore has to be channeled so that it allows us to find the true answers that will inform our actions.
That is where the Torah comes into play. The Torah through its Mitzvot teaches morality and ethics forcing people to look beyond their own selfish narcissistic needs and interests. The ritualistic commandments, those commonly referred to as Mitzvot bein Adam Lamakom, are needed to keep us focused at all times on the ontological questions while at the same time forcing us to go beyond our built in tendency of taking care and satisfying our physical needs. The societal Mitzvot teach us ethics, morality and the need to think of the other while also organizing society so that people live peacefully with each other. The Mitzvot are therefore tools to make us better people so that we can fulfill our raison d’etre and learn how to play a responsible role in the continuity of existence.
“The general object of the Law is twofold: the welfare of the soul, and the welfare of the body. The welfare of the soul is promoted by correct opinions communicated to the people according to their capacity. … The welfare of the body is established by a proper management of the relations in which we live one to another. This is achieved through two things. One of them is the abolition of their wronging each other. That is to say, that we do not do, every one as he pleases, desires, and is able to do; but every one of us does that which contributes towards the common welfare. Secondly, by teaching every one of us such good morals as must produce a good social state. Of these two objects, the one, the well-being of the soul, or the communication of correct opinions, comes undoubtedly first in rank, but the other, the well-being of the body, the government of the state, and the establishment of the best possible relations among men, is anterior in nature and time.” (MN 3:27)
With this perspective, I believe most of the questions that plague us about the reasons for specific supposedly illogical Mitzvot vanish. For example, the laws of impurity generally seen as Chukim have no intrinsic value. Their primary purpose is to remind us that we are about to enter the places designated to make us focus on metaphysics and God, the Beit Hamikdash. The idea is to not make our presence there mundane and create an aura of holiness and restraint from physical matters. Its extended purpose is as Rambam says in Hilchot Tume’at Ochlin (16:14)
אף על פי שמותר לאכול אוכלין טמאים ולשתות משקין טמאים, חסידים הראשונים
היו אוכלין חוליהן בטהרה ונזהרין מן הטומאות כולן כל ימיהן; והן הנקראין
פרושים. ודבר זה קדושה יתרה היא, ודרך חסידות שיהיה אדם נבדל ופורש משאר
העם, ולא ייגע בהן ולא יאכל וישתה עימהן: שהפרישות מביאה לידי טהרת הגוף
ממעשים הרעים, וטהרת הגוף מביאה לידי קדושת הנפש מן הדעות הרעות, וקדושת
הנפש גורמת להידמות בשכינה, שנאמר "והתקדשתם והייתם קדושים, כי קדוש אני"
The idea is to create an aura of holiness and separation from day-to-day preoccupations and personal needs to allow the person that wants to focus on the existential issues to do so and arrive at correct conclusions that are not narcissistic and self-serving. The ultimate purpose of these laws is therefore to develop correct opinions and find the true ways of HKBH so that we can emulate Him. The laws of impurity are an important tool, one of many, in leading us to that understanding.
“We must bear in mind that all such religious acts as reading the Law, praying, and the performance of other precepts, serve exclusively as the means of causing us to occupy and fill our mind with the precepts of God, and free it from worldly business.” (MN3:51)
And what is the point of filling our minds with God and thinking about Him?
“The prophet thus, in conclusion, says, "For in these things I delight, says the Lord," i.e., My object [in saying this] is that you shall practice loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. In a similar manner, we have shown that the object of the enumeration of God's thirteen attributes is the lesson that we should acquire similar attributes and act accordingly. The object of the above passage is therefore to declare, that the perfection, in which man can truly glory, is attained by him when he has acquired--as far as this is possible for man--the knowledge of God, the knowledge of His Providence, and of the manner in which it influences His creatures in their production and continued existence. Having acquired this knowledge he will then be determined always to seek loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, and thus to imitate the ways of God.” (MN 3:54)