Parshiyos Acharei Uk'doshim 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 27

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

JOLT -- Beyond Nature

Last week we discussed Ramban’s difficult statement, "there is no such thing as nature." Fortunately, in this week’s parsha, Rav Yerucham Lebovitz clarifies the issue at length. (Da'as Torah, Chelek Ma’amorim) Analyzing many early stories of the Torah, and quoting Ramban in many areas -- his words strike -with the force of lightning.

Noach Contrasts with Moshe

The Torah introduces Noach as “ish tzadik” -- righteous man. However, in the closing episode, the verses state: “Noach, the man of the earth, began, and planted a vineyard.” The Medrash finds the change to be an ominous sign, and contrasts Noach with Moshe. Noach went from “ish tzadik” -- righteous man -- to “ish ha’adama” -- man of the earth. Moshe, however, was initially referred to as “ish mitzri” -- man of Egypt -- but, in the end, “ish ha’elokim” -- man of G-d!

Ramban explained. Whenever the Torah uses the expression “man of...” it is summarizing the very essence and being of the person. In the case of Noach, people had planted crops, and they would plant a vine among the trees. Noach, however, wanted wine so much, that he planted rows upon rows of vines, an entire vineyard.

How strange; for such a minor issue, Noach is given a new title: man of the earth!

Elsewhere, Ramban explains the prohibition of blood consumption: That which a person eats, becomes absorbed within him. Although the Torah permitted animal meat, if the blood were permitted, man’s soul would become blended with the soul of the animal. “Aha,” Rav Yerucham notes. This is the same thesis of the Ramban earlier. Noach so desired wine, that it became associated with him, blended with his soul, hence -- “ish ha’adama” -- man of the earth.

The soul can reach dramatic heights -- but the desires of the body, when carried to extremes, may sully and drag ever downward. Another such contrast appears in the verses themselves. Eisav (Esau) is called “ish yodei’a tzayid” -- the man who knew meat, “ish sadeh” -- man of the field. “There is no complaint,” said Rav Yerucham, “if he knew meat. However, when the Torah attests to his being called ‘ish yodei’a tzayid’ -- the MAN who knew meat, we are informed that this was essential to his entire essence and character. Yaakov, however, is called ‘ish tam, yosheiv b’ohelim’ -- the simple man who dwelt in tents. This was his sign and seal -- his simplicity -- that he dwelt in the house of study.”

The Spies (Hameraglim)

The episode of the spies disturbed Ramban greatly (Bamidbar 13:2), and he asked many questions. The people’s plan to spy out the Land made military sense; Moshe had agreed; Hashem had indeed commanded. We are not to rely on miracles. Concluded Ramban: Since the people were constantly seeing the miracles, they should have followed the cloud (which guided them in the desert). Moshe agreed with them, and Hashem indeed commanded them; but it was just as Shmuel the prophet was told: “Listen to the people (that they should have a king)... they have not despised you, rather, it is I that they despise!” Hashem and Moshe acquiesced, and let the spies go, but only because they saw that it had now become necessary. (In the same way, Hashem had acquiesced and allowed the people to choose a king, but only because they no longer had the proper faith.)

In parshas Bechukosai, Ramban discussed applied medicine. When the people are complete (in faith), they are not led in a natural way; they don’t need doctors. As the Rabbis said, “It is not the proper way for men to take medicines; however, since it has become the custom, it is the custom.” It should have been, that if Hashem wanted to show us something, He would make us ill; when He so desired, we would be healed. However, now that medicinal practices have become customary, He has left us in the hands of “natural circumstances.”

At one time, the Jews were on a miraculous plane of existence. When they chose to live in a purely natural environment, they became subjected to natural occurrence.

Beyond Nature

“A man needs to live a life beyond nature. We don’t mean by this, that one should leave the realm of nature altogether, and live by miracle -- we are not to rely on miracles! Rather, through our natural existence, we need to live a life beyond nature...

“The secret of the entire Torah is moral correction, correcting natural tendencies, changing natural inclinations.

“There is no difference between a good nature or bad nature. There is no such thing as a bad nature! Rather, the point is -- if a person relies on his ‘nature’ he destroys himself. The entire status of a person is determined only by one element: changing one’s nature, knowing one’s self, ruling over one’s inclinations.

“Do not walk in your habitual gait, but all your deeds should come about by knowing yourself. It comes out, that one who has no connection with changing his nature, is as if he has no share in the Torah of Moshe, as we have discussed elsewhere from the Ramban.” (Da'as Torah, Vayikra, 160-161)

This reference is to the same quote of Ramban with which we began our discourse. When Ramban wrote that “there is no such thing as nature,” he meant that nature should not hold sway over our actions. Surely, there is nature, but it can be contained, controlled, conquered.


Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

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