Earlier this year I was invited to deliver a speech to the cadets of one of America’s few remaining military colleges, The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. I walked the portrait-bedecked hallways, redolent with American military heroism, and sensed the ghosts of the cadets that fought in the Civil War. Later, gazing upon the auditorium filled with clear-eyed young men in their smart gray uniforms, I saw a hint of hope for our civilization. I realized that I, an orthodox rabbi, shared a common culture with these cadets, a culture based on tradition. This was such an exciting insight for me that I discarded my prepared remarks and told them this instead.
The beginning of the Bible distinguishes between people and animals in a surprising way. God created all living creatures in turn; fish and birds on the fifth day, land animals and then Man on the sixth. However, Man is the only one of God’s creations that is described as “male” and “female.” In other words, the difference between a lion and a lioness is negligible; Mr. Elephant, for all practical purposes, is identical to Mrs. Elephant. Man, however, is quite different in that his species is comprised of two sub-species: Man and Woman. The following two biblical chapters are devoted to describing God’s blueprint of cooperation between these two sub-species—we call it marriage.
The marriage model designed by the world’s greatest Matchmaker is based on three fundamental differences between male animals and male humans. Each relates quite differently to other males, to females and to offspring. A dog or a deer sees another dog or deer as something to fight and dominate. The fight usually will be over something quite tangible like territory, females, or prestige. Furthermore, the fight will most likely be a rather lonely ordeal since neither antagonist expects nor receives any assistance from other males in his group.
By contrast, a man views another man first in terms of potential mutual benefit. He asks himself the beautiful Divine question that fuels all of commercial enterprise. What can we do for one another? Perhaps he wants to hire me; perhaps he can do something for which I want to hire him. Perhaps he has something I wish to purchase or he might be a customer for my product. This line of inquiry emerges in all its nobility when one recognizes it as the only alternative to fighting. (Males could of course just ignore one another, but this is even more demeaning than fighting.)
When real men do fight, as they must from time to time, it is frequently over an idea. Which means that men almost never have to fight alone. Instead, the principle for which they are fighting serve to bond them into units, regiments, and armies. This is why men fight in uniforms, while animals do not. Amidst the brutality and suffering of war, men can sometimes be inspired by the camaraderie and selfless idealism they see around them. No animal ever earns that consolation.
Animals fight over females, men protect them. This helps to explain why military men so readily attract brides in spite of the tough life they offer them. The uniform assures a prospective wife of two outstanding qualifications possessed by the man inside it. First, he is someone motivated by principles and passionate beliefs. Second, he is someone whom a lot of other men decided they could trust. These two qualifications count for so much in God’s marriage model that even non-military men learn to demonstrate that they also possess them.
The second fundamental difference between male animals and male humans is in how each relates to females. At best, an animal views its female as a commodity. In some species she is nothing more than a commodity to help respond to one of mother nature’s more insistent calls. To the chimpanzee, females are to be fought over and impregnated. Real men are unique in desiring and appreciating women as a means of transcending their lower natures. A man’s lower self is the part of him that is a taker rather than a giver. Even the loyal and enthusiastic bachelor employee is working chiefly for selfish reasons. Either he enjoys the work or he wishes for himself things that his job allows him to purchase.
When a man marries, this changes. All of a sudden, the act of trudging off to work on Monday morning is imbued with meaning. It is no longer an act of selfishness but an act of caring for another person. Every element of the marriage relationship, whether in the physical or emotional realms, serves to remind the male that the ultimate thrill is taking care of the needs of another. In return, a woman can bestow upon her man the great gift of feeling needed, thereby granting him true masculinity. An animal seems to seek fulfillment by taking what it needs from the female. Real men seek fulfillment by providing for the needs of their women.
Finally, male animals form no bond to speak of with their offspring. Running across their own descendants a few years after birth evokes no recognition at all. For humans, however, God made a delightful provision. Although every lion cub looks much like every other lion in the world, He arranged for every human baby to look more like its mother and father than like any other human on earth. This reflects the reality that real men do bond with their children forever. They recognize that their children impart even more meaning to their lives than their wives were able to do alone. It is the child who whispers, “Fear nothing, try to accomplish everything, for you will live forever.” It comes as no surprise when Fortune magazine reveals what a disproportionate number of Fortune 500 executives are both husbands and fathers. It is not wealth that produces “family values,” it is families that produce wealth. This fact is well known to many in America’s current immigration wave.
The lesson of Genesis is that men really only have two choices. They can aspire to be real men or they can emulate animals; which they choose will be revealed best by how they treat other men, women, and their children. If they can cooperate with other men in educational, military, or commercial environments, they are men, not animals. If they dedicate their lives to one woman, supporting her, nurturing her, and growing into a giver through her, they are men, not animals. If each of their children are precious jewels to be gradually exposed to a wondrous world, they are men, not animals.
At the citadel, I told the young cadets that they were fortunate to be educated in becoming real men. Sadly, this is not taking place everywhere. The Judeo-Christian tradition that underpins almost every aspect of their training is under attack on the streets of America’s cities. Nowhere is this more clear than in how young men are growing up to view other young men, young women, and their own offspring. Men who view other men as creatures to be fought and dominated have flouted God’s invitation to be men; they have chosen to be animals. Men who think women are commodities to be fought over, used, and impregnated have renounced real manhood in favor of emulating animals. Men who do not even regret that they cannot recognize their own children are a terrifying omen of America’s plunge into barbarism.
The fight was waged in our culture over 1 the past 3o years has chiefly been over whether the Bible’s model of marriage and family life is still correct for America. The traditional view is that humans will be happiest, they will feel most fulfilled, and their society will best flourish when conventional family life is widely practiced.
The opposing viewpoint, which has increasingly insinuated itself into our laws, schools, and public policy, argues that anything endorsed by the Bible is bad. This approach has bequeathed bitterness to those who bought its animalistic message; its legacy consists of the dangerous streets and squalid neighborhoods that altogether appropriately are referred to as the urban jungle. The cure is the Judeo-Christian marriage model, which can turn animals into men and jungles into shining cities.