Thursday, February 3, 2011

Philosophy, Science and the Evolution of Man - Part 2

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.

3 comments:

  1. I agree with your points that Slifkin is reading into the Ramban something that the Ramban never siad.
    However, I do have a question on what you wrote. You said
    >>> 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.

    However, if you look at the Ramban he seems to say the following.

    a) From the ma'amar of "hachayah v'habeheima" all "nefashos hatenuah" were made at the same time.
    b) After that Hashem made different gufos. First the beheima and chaya and then the guf of man with his nefesh.
    c) Then Hashem breatehd into man the nishams elyona. Also, this act of putting in the nishmas elyona is a separate ma'amar of "Vayifach b'apav'.

    It seems from the way I understand the Ramban that there was a lapse between yetzirah and neficha-although we have no idea how long or short it was. And I agree 100% to conjecture that the Ramban means evolution is a major stretch.

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  2. Dear Chaim,

    Shalom Aleichem! Welcome to our humble blog. Thank you for writing. May Hashem grant you bracha v’hatzlacha b’chol ma’aseh yideichem…

    You wrote: I agree with your points… However... I have a question on what you wrote. You said

    >>> 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.

    However, if you look at the Ramban he seems to say the following.

    a) From the ma'amar of "hachayah v'habeheima" all "nefashos hatenuah" were made at the same time.


    Agreed

    b) After that Hashem made different gufos. First the beheima and chaya and then the guf of man with his nefesh.

    Agreed. I’d like to note that the Ramban is simply following the pashtus of the pesukim.

    c) Then Hashem breatehd into man the nishams elyona. Also, this act of putting in the nishmas elyona is a separate ma'amar of "Vayifach b'apav'.

    Yes. But note that this “separate ma’amar” thing you refer to makes more sense as “another ma’amar” rather than “a separate ma’amar”. Chevel brings another KY which changes the dalet of echad, to a reish, i.e. acher. It refers to “another” pasuk in Koheles.

    It seems from the way I understand the Ramban that there was a lapse between yetzirah and neficha-although we have no idea how long or short it was.

    I don’t see that in the Ramban. Here’s my translation. “and after that the body of man, and he put in it this [animate] soul and after that He blew in him the transcendental soul…”

    Why do you feel that Ramban implies there was a lapse of time between the nefesh ha’bihamis and elohis? Perhaps the “separate ma’amar” reference in he Ramban is throwing you off? I don’t see anything in the Ramban which implies a lapse of time. But if it helps any, Chazal themselves say that Adam acquired his neshama in the fourth hour of the sixth day of creation but they do not distinguish between the two souls. In the third hour he was still inanimate. As soon as the nesinas nishamah was completed in the fourth hour, Adam immediately stood on his feet in the fifth with both souls.

    Here’s my translation of the ma’amar chazal in Sanhedrin.

    “Rabbi Yochanan bar Chanina stated: The (sixth) day consisted of twelve hours; in the first hour, his (Adam’s) dust was gathered. In the second, he was made a form. In the third, his organs were set. In the fourth, he was ‘ensouled’. In the fifth, he stood on his feet. In the sixth, he named names (of all the animals). In the seventh, he was paired with Chava. In the eighth, two mounted the bed and four descended. In the ninth, he was commanded not to eat from the tree. In the tenth, he corrupted. In the eleventh, he was judged and in the twelfth he was ejected and went along his way…” (Sanhedrin 38b)

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  3. >>> But note that this “separate ma’amar” thing you refer to makes more sense as “another ma’amar” rather than “a separate ma’amar

    I am not sure what the chiluk is between "another ma'amar" and “a separate ma’amar". Either way Hashem "spoke" a second time when he put in the neshama. Can you explain what you mean by those 2 terms.

    Also, in looking at the Ramban again I see he says first Hashem created the "nefesh hatenuos" in all animals and man. Then he created the guf and put the nefesh into the guf. Finally, he put the nishmas elyonis in man.

    Based on the gemara in Sanhedrin, what hour did these 3 things take place? I would say creating the nefesh and guf was in hour 2&3 and putting in the neshama was in hour 4.

    Do you agree with this understanding?

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