Don't be an animal

Friday, 12 April, 2024 - 7:31 am

I once heard a Darshan (preacher) say: When we call a human being by the name of an animal, whether wild or domesticated (such as: “he’s a snake,” “he’s a mule”), we are actually belittling the animal, since animals fulfill their destiny in this world by just being what they are – animals. But when a human being behaves like an animal he is not fulfilling his destiny – which is to be a human being.

Parashat Tazria, the Parasha that deals with the laws of purity and impurity of human beings, follows Parashat Shemini, which deals with different types of animals and their status – kosher or non-kosher. Rashi says in his commentary on the first verse that there is a reason that the laws regarding human beings come after the laws regarding animals. “The same way Man was created after all the animals and birds, so the laws regarding him were presented after the laws of animals and birds.”

What Rashi does not explain here is why Man was created last, on the sixth day of Creation, when the entire world was already in existence, after the inanimate, the plants and the animals had all been formed?

Our Sages said that Man was created last for two reasons, each one of which embodies a different end of the spectrum:

a. So that he will come to a completed world and will be able to begin to live in it according to human beings’ needs and requirements;

b. So that in case he misbehaves, one can always say to him: “The mosquito was created before you.” Don’t forget who you are and where you come from. Even a tiny and annoying creature like a mosquito came before you and was created before you. And not only was he created before you chronologically, but even in status he is above you, because he is fulfilling his destiny; and what can you say for yourself in that regard?

By the Rebbe, whenever there are two answers given to one question, there must be a connection between them. Here, too, the Rebbe puts the two answers together, making up one wonderful message:

Man is composed of body and soul.

The body is earthy, and has animalistic needs, and in order to ensure that he not degrade himself and become worth less than a mosquito, he has the refined, G-dly, spiritual soul. What he needs is proper management. When the soul manages him and guides the body, then the world will constitute for him a ready tool; but if not – if the body will be the one that manages and guides – then very quickly the person will find himself inferior even to a mosquito.

And I say, May we be successful J!

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski


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