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24 Nissan – Human or Animal

24 Nissan 5783 – 15 April 2023

חׇ֭כְמוֹת בָּנְתָ֣ה בֵיתָ֑הּ חָצְבָ֖ה עַמּוּדֶ֣יהָ שִׁבְעָֽה׃

Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn her seven pillars.

Proverbers 9:1

Parshat Shemini ended today with the text on the laws of kosher animals, describing which animals are clean or unclean. In next week’s Parasha, parshat Tazri’a, we read about the purity of humans.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to talk about humans first and then animals?

Chazal teach that the laws follow the order of creation and since animals were created first and after them Adam, Shemini deals with the purity of animals and Tazri’a deals with the purity of humans.

Several reasons are given as to why Adam was created last. One of the reasons why Adam was created on Shabbat evening is; that if a person becomes haughty, G-d can say to him: The mosquito preceded you in the acts of Creation, as you were created last. So in this case, humans can learn humbleness from the mosquito.But there are many other animals we can learn from.

“Rabbi Yochanan said: ‘Had we not been given the Torah, we would have been able to learn about the virtues of fashionsty from the cat, respect for other people’s property from the ant and loyalty from the dove’ ” And from Yehudah ben Tema we learn: “Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in heaven”

But this is one side of the coin. If you are sad or depressed as a human being, you have to remember that Hashem created the world for you.

That was another reason Adam was created last. Hashem wanted the creation to be perfect for Adam.

Chazal teach: he [Adam] was created on Shabbat eve, after all other creations, so that he would immediately enter a feast, as the whole world was prepared for him. This is similar to a king of flesh and blood, who first builds palaces [palterin] and improves them, and prepares a feast and then brings in his guests. As it says, “Wisdom has built her house and she has carved her seven pillars”.

Two completely different opinions. Is Adam now less than an animal or more than an animal. I had to ponder this today as I took a lovely walk through nature, and was lucky enough to see many animals. Hares, deer and storks, they all did exactly what they were supposed to do. They were doing exactly what Hashem had instructed them to do, to be hare, deer or stork.

That is the difference between animals and humans. Humans are commanded to be human, to be an image of Hashem. However, we as the only creature have the choice. Do we want to follow the rules Hashem gave man to be a good person, or do we just do what our heart tells us.

If we do the latter, we are less than an animal – who after all does what Hashem asks – and if we listen to Hashem’s will and emulate His will – then we are human, human as we are meant to be.

Rabbi Elazar ben Shammua makes a link to Proverbs 10:25 which says: “But a righteous person is the foundation of the world”.

Righteous people, people who want to walk Hashem’s straight path are the foundation of the world, of a habitable world.

How does a person become righteous? By studying Torah and its mitzvot and improving his 7 emotional attributes. These 7 emotional attributes / sefirot are:

Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness.

Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven–i.e., “Kindness in Kindness”, “Restraint in Kindness”, “Harmony in Kindness”, etc.–making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day devoted to the “rectification” and perfection of one the forty-nine “sefirot.”

During these weeks of the Omer Count, let us all improve and strengthen our emotional attributes so that we can truly be the human being Hashem envisions. The human being in His Image. The human being who is above the animals.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: Sanhederin 38b:13 and 14, Eruvin 100b, Avos 5:20, Shabbat, 29 Iyar, 5746

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