Expressing the Animal Inside a "Responsible Manner"
By Boruch Merkur

I appreciate your articles, but I thought I would reply to the article "Who is Master," because my opinion differs greatly.

It is a very Jewish concept that one should not be punished for their thoughts, only their behaviors. By suppressing the "animalistic" urges in ourselves we would be attempting to defy nature, and it is only when we respond to these urges (lust, power, etc.) in an irresponsible manner that we have done wrong.

Human feelings are beautiful and should never be denied, for it is through expression of these feelings that art is born.



Dear R_______,

In your letter, you write about your opinion that "differs greatly." You maintain that there is no need to suppress our G-d-given nature, for there is a certain beauty within us that needs to find proper expression.

To tell you the truth, I am puzzled by what you mean when you say that your "opinion differs greatly." I fail to see how your view is so different, for I feel that this publication is a staunch proponent of the proper expression of all aspects of nature, and not of the "suppression" of nature.

The proper approach, of course, is not to "deny" or to "defy nature," but to harness and to lead nature and our natural impulses along the proper path in the service of G-d, as it is said, "and you should love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart (b’chol levavcha)," meaning, "with both of your inclinations [i.e., the evil inclination as well as the good inclination]." To this effect, the article in question (i.e., "Who is Master?") speaks of the necessity "to employ and to harness our animal strength, as it is said, are many harvests of grain in the strength of an ox.’"

We, therefore, both seem to agree that the problem is not with nature itself but with our struggle to master or harness nature, or as you put it: we must learn to respond to these urges (lust, power, etc.) in a responsible manner.

Judaism, by no means, denies the animalistic tendencies of human nature, but on the contrary, it identifies and utilizes them in a "responsible manner," that is to say, using them in the service of G-d. Sublimating and elevating our animal instincts is truly "a very Jewish concept." Indeed, it is a fundamental theme and obligation of Judaism.

Thus, we see that in the Holy Temple, the true center of Jewish expression, the main form of Divine service involved animals, as it is written: "A man who offers of you a sacrifice to G-d shall offer your sacrifice of an animal – of the cattle and of the sheep."

Now, it must be made clear that "Jewish expression" means: spiritual expression. Although the ultimate purpose of mitzvos is to perform physical acts with physical objects accordant to the commandments of G-d, mitzvos are like a body without a soul if they are not enlivened with spiritual intent (kavana). And this spiritual intent is symbolized by the physical act itself, as can be seen from the following example.

When "a man...offers ("yakriv"; literally meaning, "draws close") ...a sacrifice to G-d," it is his intention to draw himself close to G-d.

And how does he do that? The Torah teaches us that in order to draw close to G-d, we must offer and sacrifice that which is most dear to us: ourselves. To that extent, the verse does not read, "a man of you who offers a sacrifice to G-d," but, "a man who offers of you a sacrifice to G-d," teaching us that when we want to come closer to G-d by offering a sacrifice, we must be prepared to give of ourselves.

And it is not enough that we give of our holier side, our G-dly side alone; to truly get close to G-d and to fulfill our mission of making for Him a dwelling place in the world, it is necessary to offer up our more earthly and worldly side, our animalistic side. And so the Torah teaches us that "a man who offers...a sacrifice to G-d shall offer [his] animal."

[Based on "Basi L’Gani" 5710; p. 2-3]


Of course, this process of offering up and drawing our animalistic side close to G-d is often a serious struggle. But the struggle will not go on indefinitely, for when the imminent Redemption finally arrives, the inclination towards G-dliness will be second nature, and even our animalistic side will desire to draw close to G-d.

The Alter Rebbe explains:

In the time of Exile, when the Holy Temple is not around, the nature of man is to be drawn after his bodily needs and worldly affairs, and any success he has in doing good and turning away from evil only comes about through considerable effort and toil. But in the time of the Holy Temple, the Jewish people are naturally drawn towards the service of G-d, to love Him and to cleave to Him of our own accord and desire, realizing that He is the true source of life.

The rest of our worldly needs, however, such as eating and drinking and pursuing a livelihood, are considered, in the time of the Holy Temple, to be little more than a matter of mundane necessity, and not something that is especially prized and desired.

(Adapted from Likkutei Torah, Teitzei, p. 40)

As the Redemption unfolds and the Holy Temple is speedily rebuilt, we will all naturally strive with every fiber of our being, including the animal inside, to get closer and closer to G-d.


The problem is not with nature itself but with our struggle to master or harness nature.


Home | Contents | Archives | Interactive | Calendar | Contact | Bulletin Board | Advertise

©Copyright. No content may be reprinted without permission.