Rabbi Daniel Myers
In 1962, John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States of America declared that "We will reach the moon before this decade is out." His prediction was accurate, and on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and the rest of the Apollo 11 crew reached the moon. It is now almost 40 years later and man has soared way beyond the moon. What is the Torah's attitude towards these cosmic developments?
The Pasuk in Braishit (1:28) says "V'chivshuha-Man shall conquer the earth." While Rashi writes that the Pasuk refers to Pru Urvu, the Mitzvah to propagate, Sephorno, Ramban and Daat Mikra maintain that the Pasuk refers to man's dominance over animals, natural elements and agriculture. The Pasuk in Tehilim (Chapter 8) takes this concept even further: "When I behold Your heavens, the moon and the stars that You have set in place, I wonder what is the frail human that You should remember him? Yet you have made him only a little less then angels, and crowned him with a soul and splendor. You gave him dominion over the works of Your hand, You placed everything under his feet." Although Ibin Ezra (8:6) understands this to mean that man has dominance here on earth, Metsudath David (8:6) writes that God has placed everything under his domain. (See also The Lonely Man of Faith by Rav Soloveitchik.) According to this, man uncovering God's wisdom in the universe and harnessing it to further his interests, is a fulfillment of the verses regarding Kibbush, conquest, in Braishit and Tehilim.
We would like to point out two other aspects of V'chivshua, a national and personal one. With the Divine creation of the State of Israel, the Jewish nation has been privileged to be involved in national Kibbush. Harnessing and developing the latest cutting-edge technology in areas such as agriculture, economy, military, etc., as we rebuild our homeland, is national Kibbush. Making the arid desert bloom with a dazzling array of colors, and jamming the most sophisticated radars in the world while destroying our enemy's nuclear capabilities are two stunning examples of this glorious national Kibbush.
The third Kibbush-the one that every Jew struggles with each day of his life...is the personal one, discussed in Pirkei Avos (4:1): "Who is the Gibor, the warrior? One who conquers his inclinations" One who develops the ability to analyze, understand and properly deal with and harness on's desires and inclinations is truly a Gibor, one who is involved in a most noble form of Kibbush.
In sum, we have noted three types of V''chivshua-Kibbush, "conquest": 1) universal, 2) national and 3) individualistic. May Hashem grant us success in all three endeavors!