What Can We Learn From Elephants?

Elephants are very compassionate and sensitive animals. They are the only animals that hold a burial ceremony. Often the herd digs a hole, covers the dead elephant and stays near the grave for several days. Also, if the herd encounters a dead elephant that is not from their herd, they will treat it as if it were one of their own. In addition, if one of the elephants in the herd is sick, they take care of it, bring it food and help it up.

When we see such examples of sensitivity and compassion, we can raise the question to ourselves as human beings: What do we have that animals don’t, and is there anything that we can learn here?

When we see such examples of sensitivity and compassion, we can raise the question to ourselves as human beings: What do we have that animals don’t, and is there anything that we can learn here?

We possess additional desire to animals, and the problem is that we use our excess desire to our detriment. We can see a clear example of this problem if we look at the endless wars and cutthroat competition we find ourselves in over history, and the way we pour money into stockpiling more and more weapons today instead of myriad other means that could benefit us. We are constantly engaged in thoughts of how to exploit, overpower and outcompete others.

Animals also show many examples of overpowering and killing other animals, but they do so out of a survival necessity, not out of enjoying themselves by feeling bigger, stronger, faster and better than other animals — as we people do toward each other.

Why do we relate to other people in such negative ways? It is in order to sustain our ego, i.e. to try and satisfy our desires for money, respect and power. We do not try to overpower others merely out of a survival necessity.

Therefore, when we consider the fact that we have bigger egoistic desires that we use to the detriment of others, we cannot say that we are at any higher degree to animals.

If we wish to maximally realize our additional desire and truly show ourselves to be loftier beings, then we need to rise above our egoistic desires — our desires to benefit ourselves at the expense of others — and reach a state of a common love for one other, a state of “love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, instead of prioritizing self-benefit over benefiting others, we need to prioritize the benefit of others over self-benefit.

Everything in nature on the still, vegetative and animate levels — outside of humans — is in a harmonious interplay, and only we humans breach that balance with our self-serving use of our additional desire.

As a result, we would reach a perfect and eternal state — a state that we were put here to achieve.

Everything in nature on the still, vegetative and animate levels — outside of humans — is in a harmonious interplay, and only we humans breach that balance with our self-serving use of our additional desire.

We should thus think about how we can shift from prioritizing self-benefit at the expense of others to prioritizing the benefit of others, and to use ourselves for others’ benefit. It is because, by inverting our intention and attitude to each other from egoistic to altruistic, we would discover no less than a perfect world for everyone.

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PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah. MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute.

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Michael Laitman

PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah. MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute.