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Parashat Va’et’hanan – Lessons Around Us


This week we will be reading about the giving of the 10 Commandments, the foundation for moral conduct. The Talmud states, however, that had the Torah not been given, we would have been able to learn proper behavior from the observation of animal life.

As King Solomon said, “We could have learned diligence and hard work from the ant which never rests.” Similarly, we could have learned modesty, loyalty, and respect for others’ possessions by observing certain animals behaviors (the cat, dove, and ant).

But without the Torah to teach us, how would we have known which animal traits to emulate? Perhaps we would have learned laziness from the alligator, who basks in the sun all day, or perhaps ruthlessness from the tiger who eats its prey while they are still alive? So how could a person discern which character trait to adopt?

The deeper understanding of King Solomon’s words is that he viewed humanity as innately good and moral and that people are endowed with an inherent sense of decency and morality. Therefore, Man knows that laziness and cruelty are wrong. We are capable to use this innate power to judge right from wrong and the Torah was given only to clarify and emphasize what we could have achieved on our own.

~Rabbi Shaul