“Ever since the beginning of our existence, we have exercised our ability—whose boundaries are expanding daily—to change things at will.
Our free will is sometimes frivolous, often foolish, but in any case, it pushes us to try, and sometimes to do, many new things.
We have managed to form and destroy a great number of things, and we are still creating and innovating.
We have even succeeded in turning our basic weakness into strength.
Biologically, we are not specialized; other creatures far surpass us in almost every capacity.
They are better at running, jumping, swimming, climbing, and so many other skills.
All our senses are inferior to those of other creatures.
Even our brain lacks many special capacities.
We cannot find our homes like dogs;
we cannot navigate like birds;
we cannot move in the dark like bats.
Yet we have created, with our rather clumsy fingers, tools and machines that enable us to outrun the cheetah, to outfly the eagle, to outspin the spider.
The natural world can be seen as a vast orchestra in which each of the creatures has a distinct voice and sound.
A drum and a flute are not interchangeable.
The spider can produce threads; the bee cannot.
We humans made ourselves, somehow, into a combination of all the creatures, and we can do everything.
We can make honey and we can sting; we can plant and we can destroy; we can kill and we can resuscitate.
All these abilities are part of our strange, diverse nature.
Our power of choice enables us to do things for our good and our benefit, and also things that are against our best interests.
A baby goat will not jump down from a high rock unless it can do so without being hurt.
It has an instinct for self-preservation.
A baby human cannot be trusted in the same way: a child might jump or creep down and be injured.
We can rely on an apple tree not to produce oranges, but we cannot rely on a human to be consistent.
According to the ancient explanation, this is because humans have both good and evil inclinations.
Nowadays we would say it is because we humans have cut ourselves loose from the total rule of instinct, and instead, we have the ability to make both good and bad choices.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From Simple Words by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz