Thursday, October 21, 2021

evolution in reverse

Sanhedrin 108b writes that there were 3 different factions involved in building the tower of Bavel.  One group wanted to go upstairs and fight G-d, one group wanted to live in the heavens, and one group was idol worshippers:

א"ר ירמיה בר אלעזר נחלקו לג' כיתות אחת אומרת נעלה ונשב שם ואחת אומרת נעלה ונעבוד עבודת כוכבים ואחת אומרת נעלה ונעשה מלחמה זו שאומרת נעלה ונשב שם הפיצם ה' וזו שאומרת נעלה ונעשה מלחמה נעשו קופים ורוחות ושידים  ולילין וזו שאומרת נעלה ונעבוד עבודת כוכבים (בראשית יא, ט) כי שם בלל ה' שפת כל הארץ

"And that faction that said: Let us ascend to the top of the tower and wage war, became apes, and spirits, and demons, and female demons." (Sefaria)

The Sheivet Musar ch 48 writes that the reason apes look so much like people and try to imitate the behavior of people is because they in fact were once people before this punishment transformed them into apes.  The theory of evolution in reverse -- apes descend from people!


  1. Beyond the irony of apes coming from man (were there kofim before this?) there is also the great staff of mussar to take from this fact.

    "Says the Shevet Mussar (Rav Eliyahu HaKohen of Izmir ), a monkey realizes what it lost out on, living a life of regret over its lost madreiga. A human should contemplate this and live up to his potential — so he doesn’t have to look back at the end of his life with regret.
    If a monkey attempts to mimic the behavior of the superior human, shouldn’t we take this to heart, and live the way that the superior human should be living?

    There is yet another great lesson to take from monkeys. In the second pasuk of Koheles, as Shlomo HaMelech describes the physical world, he employs seven “havalim.” (According to Midrash Tehillim 92, each time the word “hevel” is used, that counts as 1 and each time the word “havalim,” which is plural, is used, that counts as 2; in this pasuk, “hevel” appears 3 times; 3x1= 3; and “havalim” appears 2 times; 2x2=4, which adds up to 7.) The Midrash (Koheles Rabbah 1:3) explains that the seven “havalim” allude to the seven stages of a person’s life. At one year of age, man can be likened to a king, doted upon by all. At two and three, he is like a pig, groping around in the garbage. At ten, he prances around like a baby goat, never sitting still for even a moment. At twenty, he is compared to a horse, preening and grooming himself in search of a mate. When he takes upon himself the responsibility of marriage, he is like a donkey that carries a burden on its back. When he has children, he becomes brazen as a dog trying to find food and money to feed his family. And when he grows old and reaches the seventh stage, he becomes like a monkey. (See the end of this Midrash for a different and more optimistic view of the end of life in regard to bnei Torah.)
    A simple way to understand the comparison of man to a monkey in his final stage of life is that he becomes hunched over and senile, slightly resembling a knuckle-dragging monkey running around in the jungle.
    The Kotzker Rebbe (cited in Michael Be’Achas, p.287; and in Shem MiShmuel, Beshalach 5672) has a different explanation. What does every child know about monkeys? “Monkey see, monkey do.” Monkeys imitate and mimic human behaviors. They imitate, but do not innovate. They just repeat old behaviors. They do nothing new.
    Just like the adage goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Chazal used a monkey as the focus of this most important lesson. At a certain point, we get old and we stop trying to improve ourselves and attain greater spiritual heights. We are content to live out our remaining days as a mere imitation of ourselves! Therefore, while still young, we must work on ourselves to develop and perfect our middos; later we will merely be living off of the level of development achieved in our youth.

    1. well said - do you mind if I add your comment into the post itself?