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Past Articles:
MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO

By: Ari Waldman



Have you ever wondered
why monkeys resemble people?

An original answer is found in the words of the Talmud and our Sages.

The Talmud (Berachot 59b) says: “If you see a monkey, make the blessing, “… He who changed the creations.” The commentators ask: What change was made to creation pertaining to monkeys?

The Kabbalist Rabbi Meshulam answers that in the time of The Great Flood, Gd punished some of the people and turned them into monkeys (and elephants).That is why monkeys look like people – because they once were people! This also explains why monkeys and elephants have superior intelligence than the rest of the creatures in the animal kingdom.

The Midrash Rabbah (Genesis 23:9) says: Four things changed during the time of Enosh:

1)The mountains became rocky.

2)The deceased began to rot.

3)People’s faces became similar to those of apes.

4)People became susceptible to demons.

In Sanhedrin (109a) it says about the generation of the Tower of Babel, “One third of the people wanted to wage war against Gd and He turned them into monkeys,…”

The Malechet Shlomoasks: “Why are these animals (monkeys and elephants) singled out for a special blessing? He answers: Look in the Meiri, who says they are similarto man in certain aspects.

The Shevet Mussar (chapter 47) says looking at monkeys should arouse our repentance. Why? Because monkeys originally were men. For this reason, when they see people, they copy them. (“Monkey see, monkey do.”). They want to return to their original state, to be human again, but they can’t, so they copy our actions and gestures.

The Shevet Mussar remarks, “Why should a person sin and cause himself irreversible damage, such that he will be embarrassed to be seen by people? He willdesire to undo the damage, but he won’t be able to. Today is the time to do them [the mitzvot] and tomorrow is not the time – so do them now and don’t wait. Don’t be like the monkey that wants go back to his original state but can’t.”