The animal kingdom is vast and wondrous. Research shows how animals have impressively similar characteristics to humans.
For years scientists have been comparing the human race to monkeys. And even now we continue to compare ourselves to our hairy counterparts.
After all, they play, they fight, they love, they hug, they groom one another. Female chimpanzees have even been seen using sticks as dolls, cuddling them, creating games and even putting them to bed.
And it’s not just chimps. Dolphins have long been known for their intelligence. Bottlenose dolphins can recognise themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies. Elephants have been cited attempting to resuscitate members of their group and mourning their dead.
Yes, animals are fascinating. And sometimes strikingly similar. But no matter how cute, clever, or depressed the chickens in your chicken coop are…they are still just chickens.
Can you imagine a self conscious giraffe refusing to go out because he feels his neck is too long? Or a tiger getting depressed because he’s just so sick of wearing stripes every single day? And maybe we should take a minute to imagine how the monkey feels -
I’m so fed up with being compared to those humans all the time! Can’t I just be appreciated for who I am?
No hippo is going to starve himself because he thinks he’s too fat and no dolphin is going to start a school for his fellow sea friends because he feels under stimulated.
Judaism has very powerful teachings about the proper treatment of animals.
According to Judaism, animals are part of God's creation and people have special responsibilities to them.
The Bible is rich in descriptions of animals and uses the animal kingdom to teach lessons about life, society and human nature. Our sages tell us that we can learn from all of God’s creations and every creature embodies a particular trait that also exists in humans. We can learn modesty from the cat, industriousness from the ants and fidelity from the dove.
In Perek Shira (Song of Songs) the crane calls out “Praise God with the lyre, make music for Him with the ten-stringed harp” (Psalms. 33,2).
Unlike other birds, cranes have terrible voices. Although they cannot sing musically, they clatter their beaks together like maracas. They use their “musical instruments” rather than song. The message is that we all have our own unique talents and abilities which we should develop.
In Genesis it says that God “breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living being.” (2:7). Human beings were created entirely different from any other creature in the world. Not only were we created in the image of God, but a part of God’s Essence is inside of us. We have a unique soul. We have the spiritual potential to develop ourselves and our will beyond our given nature and direct it towards that which is Godly.
The translation of the Hebrew word Kof is ape and the meaning of the word kof is also imitation, particularly a false or degenerate form of imitation. A monkey might look and act like a human but it has no potential to grow any greater than it was created. It is what it is. We on the other hand, have the potential to reach great heights.
A story is told about the Rambam (one of the foremost Jewish authorities and philosophers), the royal doctor and adviser to the king in
As the Rambam entered the room the cats indeed stood up and began carrying the trays towards him, dressed in smart suits. Unfazed by this sight, the Rambam took out a mouse from his pocket and placed it on the floor. The cats howled, dropped their trays to the floor and in their smart suits they chased after the mouse. “A cat is a cat and will always be a cat in essence,” the Rambam remarked, proving that even the most sophisticated animal is incapable of controlling his instinct.
You won’t find a starving lion looking at a passing zebra and thinking to himself - No, I really shouldn’t. I’ve had far too many zebras lately.
Neither will you find a bear that’s just been attacked thinking Hold on a minute! Maybe that leopard had a really rough day. This doesn’t have to end in tears.
When all is said and done, no matter how clever, or emotional our neighbour’s cat is, it is not a human being. A leopard cannot change its spots. An animal will only ever be an animal.
We, on the other hand, can sink to the level of animals when we give in to our animal instincts. When we don’t think about our higher purpose in life, when we simply pass through life, unthinkingly and automatically.
Or we can rise above our animal urges. We can think above our immediate need and wants and reach greater goals.
We might feel like staying in bed all day and sleeping for 20 hours like a lion. Or we can throw back the covers and use our potential, make the most of the talents we have.
We might feel like running away from life’s difficulties and hibernating for the winter like a bear. Or we could face our challenges and grow through them.
We might feel like being dirty and messy and rolling in the mud like a pig. Or we could look after and respect our bodies.
We might feel like screaming and shouting when we’re frustrated and beat our chest like a gorilla. Or we could take a step back and rise above ourselves and our anger.
So, are we just good looking monkeys?
I guess that’s up to us.