The Netziv discusses the metaphysical aspect of man explicitly in Bereishit 1:26, “Let us make man in our image and in our form”
The concept of man exists before his creation. It does not say “G-d called him man” or similar
However in 5:2 it states, “G-d created them, male and female, and He blessed them, and he called their name Adam on the day they were created.”
Here it seems that Adam is a name given only at the time of creation
Netziv explains that mankind is different than all other species. Every other species has one purpose and its own nature. However mankind operates in two aspects. 1. He cleaves to G-d and is spiritual. 2. He operates within a physical, political, social, framework.
When man performs the will of G-d, he operates within a natural context.
The first aspect is the nature of Adam, which means “adama le-Elyon” (Isaiah ) like the firstborn son of a king who imitates the king. It is apparent that he imitates G-d.
However, a second born son who is given a task, he is not really imitating the king, but is given a specific task.
Shabbat 152b: לית דין בר איניש/כגון דא בר איניש
Therefore in chapter 1 man is called Adam without requiring being called by that name, because that is his spiritual essence. However in chapter 5 he is called by that name because it is how he interacts with the physical world.
Rav Yosher Ber Soloveitchik takes this concept and develops it further, with Adam 1 and Adam 2.
Netziv uses the concepts in a slightly different way. It provides an important theme in the Netziv throughout his commentary on Chumash.
Netziv 2:4 referring to the previous verse (3). “He created the Sabbath day and sanctified it… to do.”
What is “to do”? According the simple reading of the verse creation was not yet complete, because there are natural changes which will occur after the six days of creation. Rather, at this point, G-d thought that the creation will take place in such a way that nature will evolve and change itself.
The fact that the natural world evolves is part of the revelation of G-d’s glory. Through this it is revealed that G-d guides the world with Divine Providence.
Netziv is arguing on Intelligent Design. He claims that there is evolution which attests to Divine Providence.
3:2 Evolution expresses continual Providence in the world.
3:4 “These are the …”
Netziv: We have already explained that the purpose of creation is to reveal G-d’s Glory, i.e. Providence.
Man has two aspects, Divine and physical/social
By linking the two Netziv claims that man’s developments bring the world to its ultimate purpose. If man still lived on the level of Adam and Eve there would be no reward and punishment, and we would not see G-d acting in the world to reward or punish.
It is man’s role as a social/political actor which reveals G-d’s providence.
Why is there a need for an angelic aspect of man? Through this he connects with G-d on a metaphysical level.
Human progress reveals the glory of G-d.

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2 thoughts on “Netziv_HaAmek_Davar_06

  1. Micha

    I am not sure I understand the line that “intelligent design is kefirah”.

    Intelligent Design, as I understand it, is the supposition that regardless of how things came to be, there is evidence in the result that some Intelligence designed it. Since it’s usually given as a way to see G-d’s hand in scientific explanations of cosmogony, geological history, evolution, etc… it’s a statement that hashgachah means that a natural creation could still be Divine. It says nothing about that hashgachah ending at the end of some “creation period”, just that it existed during.

    So where is the kefirah? And how does it exclude the Netziv’s “la’asos” or even of evolution continuing after Adam?

    1. David Sedley Post author

      If that is the way you define “intelligent design” then it is certainly not kefirah!
      What I meant by “intelligent design” was only the view that nothing changes.


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