Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:
"In his commentary to Bereishis 1:26, Ramban says that the creation of man was a joint effort, with the earth providing the animal component… Ramban explains that this refers to the animalistic spirit within man - the one that made him animate. Only afterward, when he was already a walking humanoid, did he receive the divine spirit (of the rational soul)"
As we have seen in our previous post, Rabbi Slifkin misrepresented the Ramban on several occasions. His current post is no different. Nowhere does the Ramban state that "Only afterward, when he was already a walking humanoid, did he receive the divine spirit (of the rational soul)" This is merely a figment of Rabbi Slifkin’s active imagination. God formed Adam from the earth and breathed the breath of life into him. This is all contained in one verse of the Torah and obviously describes one uniform, uninterrupted event. There isn’t even the slightest hint that any time elapsed between the yetzirah and the nefichah.
Why does RNS attempt to foist this erroneous notion on his readers? Please read on.
RNS writes: "There are significant implications of this for evolution. True, Ramban did not believe that man is on the animal family tree. But he did believe that before man was man, he was a humanoid creature that was qualitatively not different from animals in any way whatsoever. There are thus no innate theological problems, according to Ramban, in saying that man's body evolved from other animals - since in Ramban's view, Adam himself was originally an animal."
There we go! The reason Rabbi Slifkin misinterprets the Ramban is because he is interested in supporting the validity of his thesis that mankind could indeed have evolved! The problem is, nowhere does the Ramban espouse a belief that "before man was man, he was a humanoid creature that was qualitatively not different from animals in any way whatsoever". Whatever Hashem did, he did simultaneously. There is no indication from the pasuk or from the Ramban that "non-ensouled" humanoids ever existed before Adam. Adam was never an animal! As soon as he opened his eyes, he was fully human.
RNS: "All this also means that according to Ramban, it is possible to have someone who looks human, and is even animate, and just as alive as an animal, but who is nevertheless not human - because they lack the "rational soul."
You don’t need the Ramban for that. The gemara in Sanhedrin 65 (Rava made a man) is mashma that such a creature can exist. The issue here, presumably, is whether a human being can subsequently be reduced to the status of the creature discussed in Sanhedrin.
RNS: "But according to Ramban, if a person lost his personhood - which Ramban defines as his rational soul - then while he would still be alive, he would not be alive as a human, only as an animal."
I disagree. Rabbi Slifkin has absolutely no indication from the current Ramban as to precisely what point in time it would be possible to say that an individual lost his personhood. All we have is Chazal. And Chazal say that a person loses his personhood when he experiences irreversible cardiopulmonary cessation. At that point he’s dead even from an animal standpoint thus making Rabbi Slifkin’s scenario irrelevant.