In a post on on eJewish Philanthropy today, Michael S. Berger in “A Tale of Two Philanthropists” said:
“The Bible’s first two chapters provide an account – or, more accurately, accounts – of the creation of Adam and Eve, featuring two very different views of what it means to be human. In a famous 1965 essay entitled “The Lonely Man of Faith,” the 20th century thinker Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik analyzed the differences between the first two chapters of Genesis, formulating the distinction in the terms “Adam I” and “Adam II.” In the opening chapter of the Bible, the first human couple was created at the end of the week and given the charge to “master the world and dominate it” (1:28). According to Soloveitchik, “Adam I” is a restless personality who sees the world as an endless toolbox of raw materials with which to create new things. He studies the world carefully, trying to understand its workings in order to tackle problems and improve the status quo. Driven by the question “how?”, Adam I is the scientist who tirelessly seeks to uncover the world’s natural processes and apply them in new ways, thus extending creation by human means.”
“An endless toolbox of raw materials.” Berger has described for me the view of the learner. Most learners don’t even understand this, but they see the world around them as their tools. As the person for a new kitty, I have come to understand this. Zali (short for Mazal, also known by the Sephardic Mazal Bueno, and Zalman) is curious about everything. Our house is his “toolbox” and he studies his world carefully, usually dragging it around and shaking it up. But, unlike my students, he is not “trying to understand its workings in order to tackle problems and improve the status quo.” He’s all about claiming territory, eating, sleeping, and getting our older cat to love him, much to Max’s consternation.
Living with this young, very energetic new learner, I have thought a great deal about my students. Recently, I was teaching an adult Hebrew class during Sukkot. As I took out my lulav and etrog and explained the pieces to these adults of varying decades, their eyes grew big and they were anxious to learn about this ritual item. Some people had never seen a lulav before, many had never shaken one. But much like the Adam that Soloveitchik described they “seek to uncover” new things and learn new ideas. These learners, some of whom are likely to be age seventy and older, are still ready to experience creation, by, if nothing else, creating new brain cells and ideas.
Creation is never ending. There are always new treasures to explore. There are always new rituals to learn. As we hear the words of creation in this week’s Torah portion, we are reminded that we are part of that never ending process. Which means we are never too old to learn something new or shake a lulav for the first time!