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Conquer the Land
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

The Kutai National Park in Indonesia is a lush, 490,000 acre wildlife preserve, home to rainforests and many species of rare animals. Half of all animal species on the island of Borneo (of which Indonesia is a part) can be found in Kutai National Park. In recent years, however, this wildlife haven has been threatened by human incursion. The 40-mile road cutting through the park is now lined with wood-framed houses and businesses.

Although development of the wildlife sanctuary is forbidden by law, forest rangers have proven to be ineffective at stanching the flow of human settlement. Another problem threatening the forest is logging, which destroys the forest cover and further drives away many species of wildlife. Mining companies are eyeing the rich supplies of coal and other natural resources. Human development threatens the wildlife in the area: already, the great ape and Sumatran tiger populations have seen steep declines.

Faced with a growing human population living in impoverished conditions, who can say that preserving wildlife takes precedence over human needs? On the other hand, when the world was created, G-d entrusted Adam with the responsibility of protecting the world and its resources (Bereishit 1:28): “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the sky and over all the beasts that tread upon the earth.” Once human beings modify the natural environment, it cannot be changed back. We must take great care to fulfill our responsibility that G-d entrusted to us.

Another issue, of perhaps greater concern, is when humans enroach on animal territory in a spiritual sense. We are all created with two souls, an animal soul and a G-dly soul. Our mission and challenge is to work with the animal soul, to harness its energies to serve the G-dly soul. The animal soul has the advantages of drive, energy and persistence; however, these traits must be utilized towards constructive purposes. If they are used only to satisfy animal desires, the human has truly enroached on animal territory and can no longer claim any superiority over the beast.

The ultimate goal is for a state of harmony to prevail between our animalistic and G-dly instincts; when the two do not conflict but rather enhance each other. This will be the state in the days of Moshiach, when the human and animal kingdoms will coexist in harmony, as the prophecy of Isaiah (11:6) states, "And a wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid; and a calf and a lion cub and a fatling [shall lie] together, and a small child shall lead them.”

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University. 


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