The Creation of Adam
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God created everything for human beings, in order that human beings would serve Him. That is the ultimate purpose of the world.

The most current parshot, Tazria and Metzora, begin with a discussion of the laws of childbirth and a bris, key milestones of life, and the laws regarding purity and impurity, what we call tum’ah and taharah, of people.

Rashi raises a question about the order of the Chumash: in the previous portion, Shemini, the Torah details the laws of purity and impurity with regard to animals. Current portions deals with the laws of purity and impurity with regard to people. It would seem that the appropriate order should have been to deal with the laws of human beings first and then the laws of animals, as human beings are more important; why, then, does the Torah deal with the laws of animals before the laws of human beings?

Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Rabbi Warren Goldstein

To answer the question, Rashi quotes from the Midrash which says that God modeled this structure on the order in which He created the world. In the same way that when He created the world, He created animals before human beings, so, too, in the Torah He dealt with the laws of the animals before the laws of human beings.

The question, then, is compounded; why did God create animals before human beings in the first place?

Four Reasons

The Talmud in Sanhedrin 38a gives four reasons why God created animals before human beings. 

First, so that the heretics would not say that there was a partner in Creation with God. Had God created Adam and Eve at the beginning of the six days of Creation, the heretics and the deniers of God’s existence would say that God did not create the world — Adam and Eve actually did it, or at least helped Him out. Therefore, Adam and Eve had to be created at the end, to take away the argument from the heretics and the deniers.

We see from here how important it is to refute heresy and those who deny the truth. We see as well that people will deny even God’s creation of the world. People will deny many things — for example, the Holocaust, God’s existence or the Jews’ right to the Land of Israel. Basic facts of history and rational inquiry are denied by people, and we must go to the trouble to refute the heresy and stand up for what we believe, just as God did by structuring the order of Creation in such a way.

The second reason that human beings were created last is because God wanted to teach people humility; even the mosquito was created before humankind. Lest we think we are so great, even a mosquito was created before us.

One of our commentators, the Ktav Sofer, explains further that when people sin and are detached from God, they are saying their body is what defines them. Human beings are comprised of two parts, body and soul. We can view ourselves as a body, which just happens to have a soul but our main identity is the body, or we can view the soul as our main identity and the body as merely the house for the soul. 

If our whole self-definition is based solely on “body,” then we are saying that we are not superior to the animal kingdom. Therefore, God reminds us that even the mosquito was created before humankind. But if the soul is the main focus, then man is truly superior; the soul, being a Divine spark of God Himself, preceded all of Creation. The soul and the intellect are the key differentiating factor between human beings and animals.

On a physical level, we are no match for the animals: even a simple mosquito can beat us. Look how much trouble we go through to fight off the mosquitoes: we have developed drugs and all kinds of creams and insecticides to fight them off. Physically, we are weaker. 

It is only with the spiritual and intellectual dimension of the neshamah, the soul, that we are elevated above the animal kingdom. We were created last to remind us that if we are going to behave like animals, then even the mosquito is better than us; it preceded us.

The third reason the Gemara gives for human beings created last is so that they would be created on Friday and go straight into Shabbos, straight into doing a mitzvah. 

The fourth reason human beings were created at the end is because God wanted the world to be ready for them, like a bride and groom who enter the wedding hall last; everything is ready and everyone is waiting just for them because they are the most important part of the celebration.

The Meaning of Life

The third and fourth reasons are actually connected. Human beings were created last so that they would enter a world ready and waiting for them, indicating that all of Creation was created just for them. 

This relates to — and is dependent on — the third reason, namely, that human beings came last in order to go straight into a mitzvah; the purpose of creating human beings was for us to serve God. 

God created everything for human beings, in order that human beings would serve Him. That is the ultimate purpose of the world. 

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, who has a Ph.D. in Human Rights Law, is the chief rabbi of South Africa. A longer version of this article first appeared on aish.com.

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