"And the beasts of the field will be at peace with you" (Job 5:23)
"On that day, I will seal a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heaven, and the creeping creatures of the ground" (Hosea 2:20) – All these creatures will be at peace with you (Targum, Radak).
In the previous letter, we cited the Midrash which indicates that the right of dominion is only given to human beings who actualize their spiritual potential and demonstrate that they are created in the Divine image. In fact, we have a prophetic tradition that when human beings actualize this potential through a knowledge of the Compassionate One, all the creatures will be at peace with them and willingly submit to their compassionate and caring stewardship. Even a young child will be able to lead the creatures, as the Prophet Isaiah proclaims, "The wolf will live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the kid; and a calf, a lion whelp, and a fatling will walk together, and a young child will lead them" (Isaiah 11:6). And Isaiah also reveals the cause for this new era of peaceful relations: "for the earth will be filled with knowledge of the Compassionate One as water covering the sea bed" (Ibid 11:9).
In his commentary to Genesis 1:26, Rabbi Hirsch refers to this prophetic tradition, and he writes:
"If the human being controls the creatures as one who is created in the Divine image and likeness, then they willingly accept the yoke of his control; his control does not constitute subjugation and degradation, but is an elevation for them, and involves them in Divine freedom. The whole world submits willingly to the human being who is pure and who serves his Creator. If, however, the human being misuses his position and does not control the world's creatures as a "human being" - as the representative and deputy of God - but instead exercises his control by his own power and by the might of his hand, then the living creatures do not willingly submit to him. As our sages have taught: Those human beings who demonstrate that they are in the Divine image and likeness shall have dominion over other creatures, but those human beings who demonstrate that they are not in the Divine image and likeness shall become lower than the other creatures (Genesis Rabbah 8:12)."
Throughout the generations, there are stories of how even the most dangerous creatures became peaceful in the presence of wise and righteous individuals who actualized their potential as human beings created in the Divine image. The following story can serve as an example:
Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz was a leading Torah educator of the 20th century. He was known by the affectionate term, "Reb Shraga Feivel." During the summer, he studied with a group of students at a rural branch of his yeshiva in Monsey, New York. One night the boys were gathered on the grass listening to Reb Shraga Feivel, who was sitting on the stairs leading up to the main building. As he was speaking, mosquitoes descended on the boys, and soon each student was scratching himself furiously. In the dark, Reb Shraga Feivel could not see what had happened, but he sensed the disturbance. When one of the students explained what had happened, he was perplexed and said: "If there was a swarm of biting insects here, I too would have felt it." For their part, the boys were equally amazed that he had not been bitten at all. The next day, however, as they were learning with Reb Shraga Feivel the Midrash Yalkut Shimoni on the Book of Proverbs, they had their explanation. On the verse, "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Compassionate One, even his enemies make peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7), the Midrash interprets the word "enemies" as referring to mosquitoes. Reb Shraga Feivel himself offered another explanation for the fact that insects never bothered him: He could not recall ever having killed a fly.
The above story serves as a reminder that if we fulfill our potential to be human beings in the Divine image, we can merit to experience peaceful relations with all creatures. The path of the Torah is designed to help us fulfill our unique potential; thus, the Compassionate One promises that if we walk on this path, we can once again experience all the blessings of the Garden of Eden, including peaceful relations with all creatures, as it is written: "If you will walk in My statutes and keep My mitzvos…I will cause violent beasts to disappear from the land" (Leviticus 26:1,6). In its midrashic commentary on this promise, the Sifra cites the interpretation of Rabbi Shimon who states that the beasts will remain on the land, but they will no longer be violent. Rabbi Shimon adds that an elaboration of this blessing is found in the following Divine promise:
"The wolf will live with the sheep and the leopard will lie down with the kid; and a calf, a lion whelp, and a fatling will walk together, and a young child will lead them. A cow and a bear will graze, and their young will lie down together; and a lion will eat hay like cattle. A suckling child will play by a viper's hole; and a newly weaned child will stretch his hand toward an adder's lair. They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of the Compassionate One as water covering the sea bed." (Isaiah 11:6-9)
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
P.S. The above story about Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz is found in the biography, "Reb Shraga Feivel" by Yonoson Rosenblum, published by Mesorah Publications: For more information about this moving book, visit: http://artscroll.com/linker/hazon/ASIN/RSFP