"G‑d had formed out of the ground every wild beast and every bird of heaven. He [now] brought them to the man to see what he would name each one, and whatever the man called each living thing was indeed its name." (Gen. 2:19)

By naming each creature, Adam had to analyze the essence and nature of each one….

"To see what he would name each one": Part of this process of was also making Adam realize he had no mate. The Hebrew name of anything is an expression of its essence and nature. By naming each creature, Adam had to analyze the essence and nature of each one and thereby deduce its name. In so doing, he realized that none of these creatures was a fitting mate for him.

By naming the animals in accordance with their spiritual source, Adam did more than display his brilliance - he articulated the notion that physical reality can and should express its spiritual origin and be true to its spiritual essence. In this sense, he animated the bond between the animal and its source. Here Adam began the process of fulfilling the purpose of Creation, of making the world into a home for G‑d1 .

In sharp contrast, the angels - being completely spiritual - could not conceive of this possibility. Certainly they knew the spiritual antecedents of the animals, the names of their spiritual archetypes. But they found it inconceivable that physical animals should be given these same names, which would reflect the bond between their spiritual source and physical being. Thus, we are told that when G‑d created Adam and consulted with the angels (see above, 1:26), the angels asked G‑d, "What is the nature of this man?" G‑d answered, "His wisdom is greater than yours." To demonstrate this, G‑d now brought the animals before the angels, but they could not name them. G‑d brought the animals before Adam and he named them. (Bereishit Rabbah 17:4)

Man…is immune to the incongruity of heaven and earth….

In the normal order of things, heaven and earth do not meet, for the spiritual source of something is of an altogether different order than is its physical manifestation. Only man can remove this barrier, for man is created in G‑d's image and thus, like G‑d, is immune to the incongruity of heaven and earth.

Adam's achievement is only a beginning. Adam intensifies the connection between reality's spiritual source and its physical manifestation. Moses, in effecting the giving of the Torah, will allow for the unity of the essence of G‑dliness - which is too absolutely transcendent to be a source of anything - and physicality itself, not just its name. Just as the angels could not understand how Adam dare name the animals as he did, they will also not be able to understand later how G‑d would dare give of the Torah to corporeal man.

"…And whatever the man called each living thing was indeed its name": Adam named each creature correctly - the names he gave them were the words G‑d had used to create them.

Even though the human race on the whole no longer possesses Adam's deep spiritual insight, when parents choose a name for the child, their choice is subconsciously guided by Divine Inspiration to suit the particular soul-characteristics of the child.

© 2001 CHABAD OF CALIFORNIA / www.lachumash.org
[Based on Likutei Sichot, vol. 15, p. 15; vol. 17, p. 6]