Thursday, September 06, 2007

You Are Called "Man"

I had the pleasure earlier this week of attending a Chinuch Atzmai event at which R. Aharon Feldman and R. Yochanan Zweig spoke. R. Feldman raised the famous talmudic passage that Jews are called "Man" but Gentiles are not (Bava Metzi'a 114b). This was an address to a strictly Jewish crowd and there was no need for apologetics. However, R. Feldman, as is clear from his books (I, II), looks for theological meanings in the Talmud and Midrash rather than their simple meaning, and he applied this approach to this passage as well.

His main premise was that man's purpose in this world is to accept the yoke of Heaven. Animals, he pointed out, are incapable of consciously following God's will. Only human beings have the ability to accept God's yoke. Therefore, when a person accepts God's authority he is fulfilling his purpose as a human being.

The message of the Gemara is not that Jews are inherently different from Gentiles. Rather, it is that Jews have the Torah which enables them to more easily fulfill their purpose. Jews, who have received the Torah, have the keys to fulfilling their purpose in life. Therefore they are called "Man". Gentiles, who do not have this tool, have greater difficulty in accepting God's yoke and therefore are not necessarily called "Man".

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More