From Adam to Moshe: Shemini – Naming and Eating
The Holy One, Blessed is He, grabbed each type of species and showed it to Moshe, and He said to him: “This you may eat, and this you shall not eat”. The Holy One, Blessed Is He, likewise passed all the creatures that He created before Adam the first man, and asked him, “What shall be the name of this one?” And he would say, “Ox.” “What shall be the name of this one?” And he would say, “Camel”. And so on with each and every one of the creations. After having called names to all, The Holy one, Blessed Is He, said to him:”And as for Me, what is My Name?” He said: “Hashem”. In reference to this the verse states (Yeshayahu 42:8): “I am Hashem; that is My Name”. “That is My Name” that Adam the first man called Me. “That is My Name” that I have made up between Myself and My creations. (Midrash Tanchuma, Shemini #8)
When Adam met each creature and named it, he perceived its essence and defined it. But more than that; as he got to know each and every kind of animal, and as he was learning to relate to creation, Adam was really learning to relate to His Creator. This is why the Midrash culminates the naming process with God asking Adam to name Him, and emphasizes how this Name is what enables us to have a direct relationship with God.
The parallel drawn between God passing the creatures before Adam and between God passing the creatures before Moshe is extremely powerful.
The Midrash describes how Moshe was struggling with what the forbidden creatures were until God showed him all the creatures and pointed at them. Perhaps, by echoing this scene from the past, God was enabling Moshe to reconnect with the process Adam went through when he discovered the world and through it, became aware of God.
It wasn’t simply a ‘show and tell’ of the animals one can eat and the animals one may not eat. It was a lesson in approaching creation with a desire to uncover its Divine essence. A lesson in choosing not only what one eats but how one eats. A lesson celebrating how, we too can find the expression of God in His creation, and how, as we prepare to partake of the things He has permitted us to eat, we are able to address Him directly and relate to Him through his Name as we recite the blessing.