Weekly Letter: The Four Kingdoms

As we complete the yearly cycle of the Torah readings and prepare to begin anew from the beginning, we present a unique piece — a question presented by a participant in a weekly Torah class in Manhattan by a group of intellectuals in the mid-1940s, in which Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel was asked by the Frierdiker Rebbe to participate, which the Rebbe, then known as the Ramash, answered in writing.

Rabbi Mindel reported each week on the learning to the Frierdiker Rebbe, who was very interested in every detail. When questions were asked by the participants, the Frierdiker Rebbe would sometimes refer these questions to his son-in-law (the Ramash) to answer.

The answer to one particular question, handwritten by the Rebbe, is presented for this week’s letter.

A copy of the original question and answer, in the Rebbe’s handwriting, is presented here, as well as the English translation of the question and answer by Rabbi Mindel.

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Questions And Answers: Manhattan Learning Group

(organized by Alexander Cowen, 1940s)

 

Q:   What is the meaning of the words “And G-d saw that it was good” (better:  “perfect” or “useful”) whicha re repeated in the Bible in connection with the various acts of Creation? What do they imply? Is it not understood, without saying, that whatever G-d created is good and useful?

A:   The entire Creations comprises four so-called “kingdoms”: the inanimate, vegetation, animal and Man.

The first three may be termed the “passive” division of the Creation, since they are governed by the laws of nature, over which they have no power or influence whatever.

Man, on the other hand, may be termed the “active” part of Creation, for he has been given the ability to oppose the laws of nature and even subdue them.

To explain it more fully: the inanimate forms of Creation are clearly “passive” since they have not even the power of locomotion.

In the animal kingdom, to be sure, we find some very “intelligent” and apparently “inventive” animals. For example, the ants are known to be very industrious and ingenious in providing their food for the winter and are said to be excellent dairy farmers, of sort; the bee builds its honey comb in a truly architectural fashion; the silkworm spins its silken cocoon very delicately, and so on. But all these actions are really involuntary, that are dictated and directed by peculiar natural instincts. Nature is the dominant factor and the animal is simply its passive tool.

Man alone has the choice of action and need not be governed by any natural instincts. He can resist the forces of Nature. Moreover, he has the power to harness these forces of Nature and apply them to his advantage and thus is able to improve the world he lives in and develop Nature’s blessings, discover new ones.  Our Sages have long realized that, and pointed it out to us in their saying: “Man can become G-d’s partner in the work of Creation.”

Now, Man has been given these Divine faculties and powers to be an “active” partner in the Creation to rule over the forces of Nature. And even more so  –  Man has the obligation to participate in building the world, to develop, improve and invent. As a result,  he  might be inclined to wrongly assume:

  1. His discoveries and inventions are new and original creations and
  2. that G-d created a “faulty” Universe

To dispose of any such absurdity, the Torah tells us that “G-d saw that it was perfect (or useful).”

G-d truly created a perfect world, embodying in it all the possible qualities, uses and forces that man will ever discover. And He indeed saw His work in its entirety, in its perfect state, as only G-d alone, the Creator, could visualize it.

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