Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 21, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Above the Wings of Eagles

by R' D. Kaufman

Sometimes things don't make it to the headlines in the media, especially when they take place in someone's imagination, even if they are of general interest. Here is a case in point.

The Secretary General of the UN instructed his administration staff to issue invitations to every single one of the listed delegates to a very important meeting, where a crucial debate would ensue. This debate was of such major significance, that the Secretary General informed the delegates that no time limit would be set for the debate. Furthermore, because it was vital that the issue under debate be fully explored, each and every delegate who notified the Secretary General of his desire to participate in the debate, would be granted an opportunity to let his voice be heard - - in fact without any restrictions on the length of his contribution.

We are talking here not of the United Nations based in the U.S.A., served by men or women delegates from countries around the world, but rather, of the Animal United Nations. The previously warm relationship between man and animal has recently cooled somewhat in many areas, and various animals had mentioned the idea of a full debate on the issue to the Animal United Nations Secretary General.

The cows in England were embittered. They had been for some years now maligned by mankind to be carrying a disease claimed to be dangerous to mankind, and were being viciously slaughtered and wasted in large numbers. Elephants were complaining of being over-hunted almost to the point of extinction, and this sentiment was repeated by an ever increasing number of species. From Europe came desperate pleas for help from sheep who were being transported across the length and breadth of Europe in lorries and trains for days and days without respite, in cramped conditions, while not being offered food or water. The wording of their plea for help to the Animal Secretary General made startling reading. Inter alia they claimed that they were being treated almost as badly as the Nazis treated the Jews during the Second World War.

A further complex problem had been raised by animals, at first from "neutral" Switzerland, and later also by animals from other animal loving countries around the world. These animals sought guidance from the Animal Secretary General as to how to react to animal lover's groups amongst mankind. Traditionally these groups had been regarded as the closest allies the animals possessed amongst the human race, yet it was precisely these groups who were vociferously protesting against shechita, supposedly in the best interests of the animals. This confused the animals, as they knew from their own experience that shechita was the least painful method of slaughter.

As more and more animals gradually showed themselves to be in favor of a full debate of their relationship with mankind, the Animal Secretary General saw the sense in acceding to their wishes, and duly issued instructions for invitations to go out to every single species of animal around the world, be it of sea, land or air category.

On the appointed day, all the animals gathered, and when the formal exchange of greetings had taken place, the debate began with a mighty roar from His Majesty, the lion. This was followed by some extremely fierce growling from the polar bear. The highly intelligent dolphin waxed lyrical for a full hour, and so the day wore on.

When the delegates had retired for the night, the night owl came forward to the rostrum to offer his theories on the matter. During the following two days, the delegates listened to the snake hissing, the horse having his nay, and the donkey his bray. As the third day drew to a close, the weary delegates rubbed their eyes as the timid mouse, speaking most eloquently, made the final address.

A select committee, headed by the wily fox, ably assisted by the most learned of this esteemed gathering, was hastily established to prepare the wording of the motion to be voted on. While the select committee set about their task, the remaining delegates left the main chamber to partake of refreshments.

They returned shortly to be informed that the text of the motion was to be: "Mankind is Mad." Immediately the motion was put to the house for a vote.

There was no need to count the votes, since the motion "Mankind Is Mad" was unanimously approved, and the matter moved forward right away, back to the select committee to draft a suitable text summarizing the debate. The select committee was further entrusted with the delicate task of leaking news to mankind's world press of the result of their historic meeting.

The animals well understood that mankind may be a little upset at first to receive the news of having been so overwhelmingly condemned as mad, so to soften the blow the select committee also drew up a lengthy thesis explaining how and why the animals had reached their conclusion that mankind is mad. The thesis was a masterly piece of work, very profound, very well worded, just as they expected, coming from their most erudite and learned animal compatriots.

Basically, the thesis read that mankind is mad because mankind makes far too much fuss over clothing. To start with, male and female species of mankind wear different clothes. Even each species within itself have a vast variety of clothes for different days of the week, for different jobs, for different seasons of the year, for different social functions, not to mention, the different styles in different parts of the globe. Year to year they change the styles, calling it by a strange name, known as "fashion."

Mankind often wear up to ten different pieces of clothing at any one time, all of which they labor furiously to launder before donning again. Much friction between people is unnecessarily caused by people vying with each other, as to who has the more exquisite clothes. A select few amongst the female strain of mankind, even after going to great length and expense to obtain an exquisite piece of clothing will feel embarrassed to be seen twice in the same outfit at a wedding, or to be seen just once in a particular outfit if another of their ilk has the identical outfit.

Oh! The fuss over clothes is quite absurd. The thesis went on to suggest that animals have the solution to this wholly unnecessary extravaganza. "We don't bother with any clothes at all, at any time, and do not feel in any way belittled by this omission," concluded their paper.

The animals were fully confident that mankind would appreciate the wisdom of their dispatch, perhaps protest a little at first, but after further thought, accept it and mend their ways.

The animals however were completely wrong. Mankind was entirely unimpressed by the news from the animals. So unimpressed was mankind that they did not even deem it as a document worthy of any contemplation at all, did not respond to it and certainly did not accept its findings. After all, whilst acknowledging that the thesis had been prepared by the most erudite and learned animals, the logic it purported was still only animals' logic.

Man is comprised of an animalistic carcass infused with a neshomoh, which is the G-dly ingredient. Bereft of Torah man is essentially a species of animal, preaching animal logic. The neshomoh thus remains deeply sunk in its carcass. The Torah is THE encyclopedia offering man an insight as to how to rise above the animal instinct within him.

When Hakodosh Boruch Hu announced his intention to release the Torah to His chosen group amidst mankind, He declared, "vo'esoh eschem al kanfei neshorim -- I will raise you above the wings of eagles, and draw you near to Me." Rashi on these words makes reference to the fact that the eagle is the highest flying of all creatures. The "selling" point used by Hakodosh Boruch Hu when first introducing us to the Torah was that the Torah teaches us how to rise above even the "highest" of animals, namely, the animal part within man.

Indeed Chazal encourage us to partake of the wisdom espoused by the nations of the world (Medrash Rabba, Eichah, 2:13) Im yomar lecho odom yeish chochmo bagoyim, ta'amin.

However, for guidance as to how to refine the behavior of man so that it resembles Hakodosh Boruch Hu's character traits, we can only turn to the Torah and its prime scholars as the above quoted Medrash continues: Yeish Torah bagoyim, al ta'amin. We cannot rely on even the most scholarly secular intellectual professionals among the umos ho'olom.

The family format they generally practice nowadays is unacceptable to us. Their attitude to violence and murder differ greatly from our attitude in that they consider murder and violence as a possible source of entertainment in films, books and games. Their approach to charitable donations is also very different from our attitude. In all these and other matters, we must rely on our Torah.

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