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Dvar Torah on Bereshit

Dvar Torah on Bereshit

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Published by Gail Nalven
What does B'tzelem Elohim really mean?
What does B'tzelem Elohim really mean?

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Published by: Gail Nalven on Oct 18, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Gail F. NalvenDvar TorahBereshit 2011(sing) Bereshit Barah Elohim, Et HaShamayaim v’et HaAretz.And we’re off and running. The holidays are finally finished, and we hear the word“Bereshit,” in the beginning, at the beginning, when God began. So manyinterpretations to grapple with. So many questions to ask.This week’s portion includes so many of the stories that we have learned throughout ourlives: the creation story, Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, and Cain and Abel.And the portion ends with a warp speed jump through the ten generations from Adam toNoah, setting us up for the next portion. There’s a lot to choose from here!What I would like to concentrate on is just one line toward’s the end of the creationstory. It’s chapter 1, verse 27, the very top of page 10 in your Eitz Chayim chumash.Vayivrah Elohim Et Ha-Adam B’Tzalmo, b’tzelem Elohim Barah Otohtranslated here asAnd God created man in God’s image, in the image of God, God He created him.Hmmm. It sounds to me like it is the same thing repeated.And God created humanity in God’s image, in the image of God, God created all ofhumanity.When we see a construction like this an alarm should go off in our heads --- ding, ding,ding -- there is something special happening here.We know that it can’t be literal because we learn later on, in the 10 commandments thatwe are not allowed to make an image of God. So what could it mean that we arecreated B’Tzelem Eloheim, in God’s image.
In Pikei Avot, Rabbi Akiva would say, “Beloved is humanity for we were made in theimage of God. And doubly beloved are we, for God made it known to us that we aremade in God’s image.”Not only are we Godly simply by being ourselves, but according to Rabbi Akiva, all of usare doubly beloved because God told us so. It’s pretty clear that we individuals arespecial!So why do we keep hearing stories like this one:Barb Schroeder knew about her son Alec's struggles as an openly gay freshman in arural Minnesota High School. But she didn't know that he had a knife. Classmatescalled Alec names, and pushed him around the bathroom during a homecoming gamein 2005."I would take a knife out, hold it and think about how quick it would be, and howI wouldn't have to go to school tomorrow and deal with that," Alec Schroeder, now 20,says. Thankfully, Alec’s mother supported him and transferred him to another school.Nathan Johnson, 33, remembers hearing "faggot" and "that's so gay" from bothstudents and teachers when he was in High School in the mid-1990s. Both of thesestories come from Minnesota where there has been a rash of suicides -- 9 in the last 2years-- of Gay and Lesbian children who have been bullied by their peers.This story doesn’t have such a happy ending. From NY: Taunted since grade school forhanging out with girls, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer told his parents things were finallygetting better since high school started. Meanwhile, on a blog his parents didn't knowabout, he posted increasingly desperate notes ruminating on suicide, bullying, andhomophobia.A few days later, he hanged himself outside his home in suburban Buffalo.Tracy Rodemeyer said, her son was hurt deeply by words from the time he was veryyoung. Boys started picking on him in elementary school, she said. "People would say,`Oh my god, you're such a girl. What are you, gay? That kind of stuff"
By middle school, the bullying was overwhelming, she said. His friends would report theabuse, and school officials would pull the boy and the alleged bullies into the office.Rodemeyer also regularly saw a school social worker, who would call his mother aftermeetings. It seems like his family and the school administration were on the case andthat this should have be a success story."People would be like `faggot, fag,' and they'd taunt me in the hallways and I felt like Icould never escape it," he said in a YouTube video as part of the "It Gets Better" project,which seeks to give voices and hope to bullied gay and lesbian teenagers. He hadtalked about suicide in the past, but denied recently that the bullying had carried over tohigh school, which he started shortly before his death, his mother said. He was makingplans...His parents monitored his Facebook posts but they didn't know about a separate Tumblrblog, on which he identified himself as gay, filled with troubling posts like "Stop bullyingpeople. Maybe they won't commit suicide" and "Ugh today makes me wanna killmyself."Unfortunately, I could go on. Just this week Jamie Hubley, a 15 year old in Ottawa,killed himself after relentless bullying. There are more horror stories than I think we canhandle.B’tzelem Elohim, God created us in God’s image.Gregg Drinkwater Jewish Mosaic’s director and one of the organization’s co-foundersdrashes this portion as follows:“where the traditional view finds the climax in the union of a man and a woman, thequeer-read sees the joining together of Adam and Eve as merely a vehicle for the realend point: love. More specifically, love as
- as repair and as a solution to theultimate loneliness of being.

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