Mankind’s role in it all (2)

The most famous depiction of humankind in the Torah lies in the statement that “God created man in His image” (Genesis 1: 27). With all of its lofty and ennobling implications it’s at once the most challenging, the most potentially accusatory, and the most inspiring portrayal. Less well known, far more humbling, and less challenging is the rhetorical statement, “what is man that You (God) are mindful of him, the son of man that You (even) care for him?” (Psalms 8:4).

The sages recognized our complexities and characterized us as standing somewhere between angels and animals, with our combination of biological needs and spiritual promise [1]. More discouraging, though, were their ruminations about whether we should have been created in the first place [2], of course. They ultimately decided in the negative (after arguing back and forth for two-and-a-half years!), and thus apparently hadn’t much confidence in us. But the Zohar and the Kabbalists were decidedly optimistic about our potential, as we’ll see.

Notes:

[1]       See Breishit Raba 8:2 for example.

[2]       See Eiruvin 13b where the usual implication is that they were arguing as to whether it was to our own best interests to have been created or not, but where it might also be read as we do above.

(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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4 responses to “Mankind’s role in it all (2)

  1. Ummm…. I thought that after 2-1/2 years Beis Hillel gives in and they all conclude it would be better NOT to have been created:
    נמנו וגמרו: נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא. עכשיו שנברא, יפשפש במעשיו. ואמרי לה: ימשמש במעשיו

  2. AYE! You’re right. Yasher Kochacha, I’ll change it accordingly. Phew!

  3. It’s an important quote… Proves the supremacy of Litvisher derekh!

    Kibbitzing aside… Perhaps the gemara is saying that since it’s so much easier to both experience the Ziv haShechinah and to learn Torah (assuming they differ) without being born, we’re happier not being born.

    Alternatively… see the Maharal’s take on this gemara, and Rav Hutner’s elaboration on it — Pachad Yitzchaq Rosh haShanah #7. From a position of yir’ah, noach lo le’adam shelo nivra. However, a person can rise above that to ahavah and find nachas in being a baal bechirah. (I’m working on this, in light of Rav Hutner’s statement about the unity of yir’ah and ahavah, for the upcoming Mussar Kallah. Other readers should note… Mussar Kallah X features our host and R’ Aryeh Wolbe. See this ad!)

  4. Yasher Kochacha again, my friend, and thanks for the Mussar vort (and plug).

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