Rabbi Yaakov Haber
The Human Microcosm
"And G-d brought [all of the living creatures] to Man to see what he would call [them]; and all the animals that he called [with names] is his name (B'raishit 2:19)." With this passage, the Torah relates the episode of Adam naming the animals. What was the purpose of this procedure? Why didn't the same Creator who endowed Adam with knowledge and language skills also include a "database" of the names of the animals in his brain?
Furthermore, on the passage "let us make Man (1:26)," the Midrash quotes several positions as to whom the Creator was addressing with the word "us." Rashi quotes the opinion that He consulted with the angels before creating Man. Even though G-d did not need the angels' input and they did not assist in Man's creation, He nonetheless solicited their advice in order to teach us that a greater individual should always consult with people of lesser stature before embarking on major projects. However, the Midrash states another, enigmatic opinion that the subject of "us" is the six days of creation. How can we understand this cryptic passage?
The Malbim (R. Meir Leibush Malbim), in his commentary to our Parasha, gives a fascinating answer to both of these questions which provides for us a penetrating insight into the complex creature that is Man. Man's mission to elevate his soul-body partnership in the service of his Creator would require the marshalling of a diverse group of characteristics for different situations. The Man would require diligence, courage, kindness, compassion, quickness and a host of other qualities. The human being would also need a dose of cruelty, brazenness and other qualities which we would normally associate with evil to be utilized at the proper time in the service of G-d: cruelty for the destruction of the enemies of Israel (see Midrash Tanchuma M'tsora 1 and Kohelet 3:8) and brazenness to allow the believer in G-d to ignore the taunts and disdain of a non-believing world around him (see Ramo, Orach Chaim 1:1). The Creator's "partnership" with the other days of creation indicates that he placed within Man qualities of all of the elements of the universe in addition to the Divine soul which came directly from G-d. It is well known that diverse species of animals possess different instinctual traits which they utilize for survival; Man received a dose of all of them. Thus, Adam and his descendants would be a microcosm of all of creation. Indeed, in many Jewish philosophical works, Man is referred to as an "olam katan" -- a mini-world.
Hashem wished to inform the pinnacle of creation of the plethora of qualities that were implanted within him. Therefore, He told Adam to name the animals. Names in Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the language with which the world was created (see Ramban, Exodus 30:13), represent the essence of that particular object. Thus, Adam when naming each creature analyzed its most salient feature and called it appropriately. Now, Adam, having been informed by Hashem that all of the qualities of all of the animals had been placed within him, was essentially discovering himself by scrutinizing the qualities of each animal. If, in the future, the human being would erroneously think that he did not have courage, he need only remind himself of the lion within him. If he would question his ability to soar to great heights of divine service, he would recall that he is also like the eagle.
The idea of gaining insight into our talents from the animal kingdom appears in several other places in the statements of Chazal. Yehuda ben Taima directs in Avot (5:20) that we should be as "bold as the leopard, light as the eagle, fast as the deer, and courageous as the lion to execute the will of your Father in Heaven." Perhaps this Tanna is not merely using members of the animal kingdom as similes for good qualities, but highlighting the fact that all of their traits were placed within man. Similarly, we read in Tractate Eiruvin (100b) that had the Torah not been given, we would have learned various good characteristics from different animals. If all of these animal-traits were placed in Man at the time of his creation, it is not surprising then that he should relearn them from the animals themselves.
Many often think that they are locked into patterns of behavior which began in youth and continue throughout their life. The insight to be gathered from the presence of all qualities in an individual, albeit in different doses, should inspire us to change for the better and harness all of these talents, some latent, some patent, in the service of our Creator.