By Rabbi Uriel Vigler – Director of Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan
The internet has been abuzz with your story all week. Millions of people worldwide watched the video of you being dragged across a moat by Harambe, the 450-pound gorilla.
I am not sure how, at three years old, you managed to climb over a 3-foot high railing, walk through bushes and then jump 15 feet into a shallow moat, but hey, you did it!
VIDEO: Viewer discretion advised
I must say, I love gorillas. I was born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa, and every year during vacation our family would spend a few days at the Kruger National Park enjoying the lions, cheetah, gorillas etc. As a result, I developed a deep love for animals. And so your story touched my heart, as it touched millions of others across the globe.
To save your life, Cincinnati Zoo officials shot and killed their beloved Harambe. Thank G-d you came out safe.
The incident ignited nationwide uproar, some criticizing the zoo’s decision to kill the gorilla instead of using other means such as a tranquilizer, and others pointing fingers at your mother.
Really, it all boils down to whose life is more important. Yours or Harambe’s? A 3-year-old little boy, or a 17-year-old almost-extinct gorilla?
The answer, Isaiah, depends on you. As humans, we are different from animals in a unique way—we have the ability to make our minds rule over our hearts. That means we can use our rationale to temper and control our emotions and desires. If we feel hatred in our hearts, for example, we can use our minds to transform that into feelings of love. If we see something we really want, but doesn’t belong to us, we can use our heads to overcome that temptation.
A gorilla, on the other hand, cannot do this. Animals are ruled by instinct. They need to eat, they eat. They need to sleep, they sleep. They need to kill, they kill. A gorilla, like all animals, is ruled by his nature and cannot transcend it.
And so, Isaiah, if you grow up and perform acts of goodness and kindness, then you are much greater than the gorilla. If you live your life by using your mind to rule your heart, your life is infinitely more worthwhile than the gorilla’s.
You see, when G-d created the world, he created animals before humans. Why?
If man rises above his ego, we say, “Look, you were created last, like a king. Everything else was created for you, ready for the moment you came into existence.” But if a person acts inappropriately, we say, “Look, even animals are better than you—they were created first!”
So, Isaiah, what kind of life will you live? If you make the right choices, you will forever silence the critics who think the gorilla’s life was more important than yours. It’s up to you.
Wishing you a productive life,
Rabbi Uriel Vigler