October 22, 2020 9:39 pm at 9:39 pm #1912740abukspanParticipant
Noach 2 — Monkey See, Monkey Do
ויאמרו הבה נבנה לנו עיר ומגדל וראשו בשמים ונעשה לנו שם פן־נפוץ על פני כל הארץ
And they said, “Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed across the whole earth” (Bereishis 11:4).
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 109a) tells us that the members of the Dor Haflagah were divided into three factions, each of which received a different punishment. One planned on climbing up to the heavens and settling there; they were punished by being dispersed. The second group planned on going up and waging war against Hashem; Hashem punished that group by turning them into monkey, spirits, and demons. The last faction wanted to ascend in order to serve idols; Hashem confused them up by causing each of them to speak a different language, making it impossible for them to communicate with each other (Bereishis 11:9).
When one sees an elephant or monkey, one makes the berachah: “Baruch… meshaneh habriyos — Blessed is He…Who makes the creatures different” (Berachos 58b; see also Orach Chaim 225:8). Every creation is different from another, and these two are hardly the most unique animals in the world, so why make this blessing specifically on these two animals?
According to the Meiri (ad loc.), the berachah is said only on these two animals because they are similar to man in several ways. (See Halichos Shlomo, Tefillah 23:35; Yalkut Yosef, Berachos Pratiyos 21, fn.)
The sefer Meleches Shlomo (Kelayim 8:6, cited in VeShallal Lo Yechsar) explains that since the second of the three factions of the Dor Haflagah became monkeys and elephants, monkeys share some features with humans, and elephants can understand some human language. Hence, notwithstanding the exoticness of many other creatures, the berachah of “meshaneh habriyos,” which literally means alters the creatures, is only appropriate for these two animals; they both were originally human beings but were altered.
Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes Le’Yaakov, Orach Chaim 225) cites the Rambam (Hilchos Berachos 6:13), who says even a monkey can pour the water on one’s hands for netilas yadayim. The Raavad asks: Don’t we need “koach gavra — human force” to at least initiate the pouring of the water, a factor that the monkey is lacking? The Migdal Oz (ad loc.) counters that since a monkey imitates human behavior, his pouring could be considered koach gavra. The Migdal Oz then cites many examples from the Gemara in which the actions of monkeys have halachic significance.
Rav Yaakov concludes that in light of the Gemara mentioned above (Sanhedrin 109a), it is perhaps understandable that these two animals have at least some vestige of humanity, which allows them to accomplish actions that would otherwise require a human. And this explains why we make the berachah specifically on these two animals, which were once really humans, and subsequently underwent a change.
While this discussion of monkeys and elephants has halachic bearing, it also teaches us two powerful lessons. In the second pasuk of Koheles, as Shlomo HaMelech describes the physical world, he employs seven “havalim.” (According to Midrash Tehillim 92, each time the word “hevel” is used, that counts as 1 and each time the word “havalim,” which is plural, is used, that counts as 2; in this pasuk, “hevel” appears 3 times; 3×1= 3; and “havalim” appears 2 times; 2×2=4, which adds up to 7.) The Midrash (Koheles Rabbah 1:3) explains that the seven “havalim” allude to the seven stages of a person’s life. At one year of age, man can be likened to a king, doted upon by all. At two and three, he is like a pig, groping around in the garbage. At ten, he prances around like a baby goat, never sitting still for even a moment. At twenty, he is compared to a horse, preening and grooming himself in search of a mate. When he takes upon himself the responsibility of marriage, he is like a donkey that carries a burden on its back. When he has children, he becomes brazen as a dog trying to find food and money to feed his family. And when he grows old and reaches the seventh stage, he becomes like a monkey. (See the end of this Midrash for a different and more optimistic view of the end of life in regard to bnei Torah.)
A simple way to understand the comparison of man to a monkey in his final stage of life is that he becomes hunched over and senile, slightly resembling a knuckle-dragging monkey running around in the jungle.
The Kotzker Rebbe (cited in Michael Be’Achas, p.287; and in Shem MiShmuel, Beshalach 5672) has a different explanation. What does every child know about monkeys? “Monkey see, monkey do.” Monkeys imitate and mimic human behaviors. They imitate, but do not innovate. They just repeat old behaviors. They do nothing new.
Just like the adage goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Chazal used a monkey as the focus of this most important lesson. At a certain point, we get old and we stop trying to improve ourselves and attain greater spiritual heights. We are content to live out our remaining days as a mere imitation of ourselves! Therefore, while still young, we must work on ourselves to develop and perfect our middos; later we will merely be living off of the level of development achieved in our youth.
There is another powerful lesson to be taken from here. In Shevet Mussar (47:2), Rav Eliyahu HaKohen of Izmir writes that monkeys mimic human behavior because they are desperate to regain what they lost. Before the incident in which they tried to build a tower to the heavens, they were true humans, with all the inherent responsibilities and abilities. Seeing all that we are, and all that they are not, creates a terrible longing for the good old days. Such is the pain they endure when reflecting on their fate.
Says the Shevet Mussar, a monkey realizes what it lost out on, living a life of regret. A human should contemplate this and live up to his potential — so he doesn’t have to look back at the end of his life with regret.
If a monkey attempts to mimic the behavior of the superior human, shouldn’t we take this to heart, and live the way that the superior human should be living?October 23, 2020 3:11 pm at 3:11 pm #1912969
The Tiferes Yonasan by Rav Yonasan Eibshutz says after the mabul the dor haflogah wanted to escape to the moon as they knew that it is a makom yishuv, inhabitable. They wanted to create a spaceship to travel there. There was no mabul in EY somehow tbe mabul affected the winds to travel there and Noach had to earn his keep in tbe ark to be saved by feeding the animals.
His piety is argued on whether absolute or relative to his generation. Was there a window or a precious stone used for light in the ark? According to the Chasam Sofer this is dependent on tbe above whether he was worthy to see through the window the destruction of the wicked.
Rashi says that Noach only entered the ark because of water pressure indicating that he was in doubt in the coming of the mabul. It matters where the comma is placed. אף נח מקטני אמונה היה מאמין. If you place the comma after מאמין, it is interpreted that Noach trusted the less believers that they will repent and therefore there will be no flood as the was increased in strength.
But why do we judge him for the bad when we can judge him for the good? Maybe the meaning is that if he stayed in his current piety status in Avraham’s generation, he would not been worthy anything because he should have changed by learning from Avraham Avinu how to deal with people over his grandfather Chanoch who hid himself from his generation.October 23, 2020 6:18 pm at 6:18 pm #1912986
We see ourselves the opposte of Darvin. Darvin saw the monkeys turning into humans seeing generations becoming smarter whereas we, if we don’t behave according to the Torah, by being further away from Kabolas Hatorah as the our religiosity diminishes through time , turn ourselves into monkeys. The Binah Leitim interprets the statement in Pirkei Avos, חיה רעה בא לעולם על שבועת שוא, wild animal comes to the world because of swearing falsely. They are here on the world? He says, one not using his mouth correctly, turns himself into a wild animal.October 23, 2020 6:18 pm at 6:18 pm #1912984
Should be above, as the flood was increased in strength to have an opportunity to repent.October 25, 2020 8:12 am at 8:12 am #1913073Avi KParticipant
According to Rav Soloveichik, Noach was the first atomic individual. He did not even pray for his generation. He was happy to save himself, his family and a few animals. On the other hand, Babel, as the Netziv says, was the first totalitarian society. Everyone spoke the same language and had the same words. No dissent, even slight, was allowed. The Torah condemns both attitudes.October 25, 2020 10:27 am at 10:27 am #1913141
It is interesting to compare Yonah and Noach. The peoole in Nineveh respected Yonah and listened to him whereas Noach who built the ark for five years was seen as an old fool.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.