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Man’s Potential

We are taught from the genealogy of the Torah, that there were ten generations from Adam to Noach, and another ten generations from Noach to Avraham. If we add up all the numbers as given in the Torah, we find that Avraham was born 1948 years after creation.

According to the Kuzari, every family that was born, had only one member worthy of mention in the Torah. Inevitably, other family members were not worthy, and some were evil. It was only in the twenty third generation after creation, that the entire offspring were righteous. This was Yakov’s family, who became the nation of Israel.
We are also taught that in the seventh generation, Chanoch, the father of Metushelach, was taken from this world, because “he walked with G-d.” He had achieved a remarkably high level of spirituality, that was too holy for this world. The Baal Haturim points out that he was transformed into the Angel Metatron, one of the holiest of the angels.

While this concept is difficult to understand, it does demonstrate man’s potential. We are also taught that Moshe Rabbeinu reached an angelic state of purity. If one truly applies himself, and lives a life of sanctity and purity, he can be elevated to a very high level. If he chooses a life of self indulgence and wildness, he can cause himself to self destruct. He can be lower than an animal. The animal instinctively knows what to do for self preservation. Some humans can consciously harm themselves to a point where they cannot be helped.

The Torah’s lesson in genealogy, has a very clear message. Man has endless potential. The question is whether he strives to be like Chanoch or Moshe Rabbeinu, or does he fall lower than an animal.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for more than twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the nearly seventeen years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.
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