The extraordinary relationship between man and God, as it is generally understood in traditional Judaic thought, is grounded in the biblical description of the creation of man. In that account, man is portrayed as a complex being endowed by his Maker with a multidimensional nature that differentiates him from all other living things. He is a being compounded of natural elements leavened with the divine “breath of life,” a spiritual infusion that makes him quite unique.
Physically and biologically, man is obviously a creature similar in many respects to the rest of the animal world; he is fully subject to the laws of the natural order of the universe, what Jeremiah referred to as the ordinances of heaven and earth (Jer. 33:25). These laws of nature are considered to reflect divine management (hanhagah) of the universe and to have been instituted by God for the routine governance of the natural world. To the extent that such natural laws are discernible and deemed comprehensible, they are generally thought to be fixed and unchangeable barring some extraordinary perturbation, perhaps the result of a deliberate supernatural intervention in the natural order. Moreover, natural laws are held to be morally neutral. Thus, the sage R. Zadok spoke of God as the provider “who gives to every one his wants and to everybody according to his needs. And not to good people alone, but also to wicked people and even to people who are worshipping avodah zarah (idolatry).” 1
In his spiritual dimension, however, man is believed to be capable of transcending the bounds of the world of nature. It is the endowment of man the animal with supra-natural spiritual characteristics that transforms him into man the human. The extent and character of his humanity is manifested in the