Behar/Bichukosai – Gadlus Ha’adam: The Power to Transform Nature

This week’s Torah reading concludes the Book of Vayikra with the double portion of Behar and Bichukosai. In the second parsha we find the first set of blessings and curses for observing and G-D forbid transgressing the Torah at the beginning of Bichukosai.
One of the blessings for completely following Hashem’s Torah is: “I will provide peace in the land and you will lie down with none to frighten you; I will cause wild beasts to rest from the land, and a sword will not cross your land” (Vayikra 26:6).

The Ramban, quoting a Sifra on this pasuk, points out that there is an argument over whether ‘wild beasts resting from the land’ means no wild beast will enter any populated cities, as per Rebbi Yehuda, or, asRebbi Shimon says, that even if wild beast do enter populated areas they will not cause any damage.

The Ramban says that he sides with Rebbi Shimon’s view, and explains why: “For the Land of Israel will be in a state equivalent to the earth before Adam sinned when everyone will be fulfilling the mitzvos, no wild animal or creepy crawler will kill a person, as it says in Berachos 33a, ‘No wild donkey kills rather sin kill.’ This is what the verses in Yeshaya 11:5 and 7 are referring to when it says ‘Righteousness will be the girdle round his loins, and faith will be the girdle round his waist… A cow and bear will graze and their young will lie down together; and a lion, like cattle will eat hay.’ The instinct to prey was originally not within the nature of a wild beast, only because of Adam’s sin, was there a decree of prey on both of them, and the instinct to prey became nature even for an animal to prey on another as it is known, for preying on a man once will make the animal more fierce. And so the pasuk says ‘he learned to attack prey; he devoured men’ (Yechezkel 19:3).

Behold, at the time of creation it says that Hashem gave the wild animals grass to eat as it writes, ‘And for all the animals on the ground and all the birds in the sky and all that crawl on the ground which has an animalistic soul all the vegetation and grass is for them to eat’ (Breishis 1:30).  The pasuk concludes ‘and it was so,’ meaning this was the nature that Hashem placed inside them for all time but afterwards they learned how to prey because of the [first] sin which brought death into the world as we explained earlier. When the slaughter of animals was permitted in the times of Noah after the flood and man was warned by Hashem, ‘But your blood of your souls I will demand an account… I will demand the soul of man’ (Breishis 9:5), but not the animalistic  soul of an animal [spilled] by an animal, which means from then on the nature of the beast to prey stayed in place.

When the Land of Israel will reach its perfection, these bad ways will cease to exist and they will revert back to their original nature that they were originally created with…Therefore the pasuk speaks about the days of redemption through the ‘Trunk of Yishai,’ that peace will return to the world and preying will cease to exist and the will of all wild beasts and creepy crawlers will be as their original nature. Originally this was intended for in the times of King Chizkiyahu who Hashem wanted to appoint as moshiach, (see Gemara Sanhedrin 94a) but they did not merit that, however this will all happen in the future when moshiach comes.” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

The Mesilas Yesharim in his first chapter teaches us that Hashem put us into this world to use it; we have the ability to uplift ourselves and our surroundings by using for good what is around us. But we also, G-D forbid, have the potential to destroy ourselves and everything around us by using it for bad: “If you look more deeply into the matter, you will see that the world was created for man’s use. In truth, man is the center of a great balance. For if he is pulled after the world and is drawn further from his Creator, he is damaged, and he damages the world with him. And if he rules over himself and unites himself with his Creator, and uses the world only to aid him in the service of his Creator, he is uplifted and the world itself is uplifted with him. For all creatures are greatly uplifted when they serve the ‘complete man’ who is sanctified with the holiness of the Blessed One.”

The Ramban here seems to be taking the concept of the Mesilas Yesharim one step further. Not only can man uplift or destroy his surroundings, he can even transform their very nature back and forth from the way G-D originally intended to create them!

Not only  Adam HaRishon, someone who was mistaken by the angels as Hashem until Hashem put him to sleep, someone who understood the essence of every animal and was able to name each creature in the world  is it understandable that he could have such a power to transform nature. Yet we see from here that you and I as well, indeed all of us individually  as well as as a collective, have the potential to transform nature and revert it back to its original intention. We, who are living today, have this ability to bring peace to the world, and  usher in the days of moshiach simply by observing Hashem’s mitzvos and doing His will.

It is an awe-inspiring responsibility, but this is the greatness of man;each and every one of us has the ability to live up to it!