Monday, July 7, 2008

The Penguins of Boulder Beach

We ate lunch in Simon's Town, a picturesque seaside village and naval dock. Just a short distance from this was Boulder Beach, which was originally for people but was taken over by penguins. These are African Jackass penguins, which do not need the cold conditions of Antarctic penguins. There were a few hundred scattered in various places around the beach, both adults and young, and they were every bit as adorable as you might expect!
There's a traditional idea in Judaism that the difference between animals, as purely physical creatures, and humans, as beings that combine the physical and the spiritual, is reflected in posture. Animals walk on all fours, facing the ground, symbolizing their physicality, whereas humans stand erect, reaching towards the heavens, symbolizing the way in which we combine the physical and the spiritual.
But what about penguins? They stand up like people, which is precisely what makes them so adorable. Do they undermine this idea?
The answer is, absolutely not. But you'll have to read Man And Beast to find out why... unless you can figure out the answer on your own!


Anonymous said...

Shalom Rabbi Natan,
I just discovered you and your blog a few days ago. A whole new kind of blog! I'm enjoying it immensely.
Brachot from Jerusalem,

katherine said...

my guess, rav, would be that penguins actually move at their best and most fluid when they are swimming, not while walking upright. there are other animals that can walk upright for a time - bears can shuffle forward, horses can rear up [lipizzaners and dressage come to mind], but they are at their most comfortable on all fours.

just a guess!