R' Akiva answered unequivocally: "Those of man are superior." Turnus Rufus persisted: "But look at heaven and earth, can man make their like?" Rabbi Akiva disqualified that argument by pointing out a type of apples and oranges flaw there: "Do not draw on what is above human experience and control, but rather on that which is within our range."
R' Akiva saw that coming, as he replied, "knew you would ask this question, and so I anticipated you by declaring that human works are superior to those of God."
Rabbi Akiva then brought him sheaves of grain and rolls and said: "The former are the works of God, the latter of man. Aren't the rolls preferable?"
This is very consistent with the notion of ha'adam nifal kefi peulathav [man is formed by his actions] which the Sefer Hachinuch offers as the reason why there are so many mitzvos to do. It also fits beautifully with the prohibition of declaring that heavenly mercy extends to the mother bird in the mitzvah of shiluach hakan. It seems that Turnus Rufus was willing to accept the fact that a Deity had created the world. In fact, he seemed to accept the concept of intelligent design and viewed the world as perfect. What he was not prepared to accept was that the Creator was concerned with human actions. That is why R' Akiva pointed out the areas of creations that are not perfect in their natural state. They were made so to give human beings the task of improve them and in doing so improve themselves.
related posts: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/05/quality-of-infinity-and-pardes.htm
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