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Nechama Leibowitz - Insights on the Parashah

Nechama Leibowitz - Insights on the Parashah

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Insights on the Weekly Parasha with Commentaries by Professor Nechama Leibowitz (1905-1997)
Insights on the Weekly Parasha with Commentaries by Professor Nechama Leibowitz (1905-1997)

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Published by: api-3811809 on Oct 19, 2008
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03/18/2014

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Iyunim
Weekly Insights on the Parasha
By Professor Nechama Leibowitz (1905-1997) za"l
 
Parashat Bereshit
Iyunim - Weekly insights on theParasha with commentaries byNehama Leibovitz, za"l
Man in the Image of God
 
God said:Let us make man in our image and likeness(1, 26)
Man was created on the sixth day and was different from all that precededhim. Only his creation is recorded in two stages. First God made knownHis intention to create him and afterwards the account of his actualcreation is recorded.Man qualified for a special preamble. This separate and distinctivetreatment was, Ramban points out, a measure of his pre-eminence andhis difference in kind from the rest of the animal world whose creation wasannounced in the immediately preceding passage.In
Rechasim Lebik’a 
another and more arresting reason is advanced fromthe special preamble: “let us make” accorded to man. It paralleled theannouncement heralding the creation of woman. There God had saidbefore hand: “it is not good for man to be alone...” These explanatoryannouncements were not made in the case of other creatures. Theircreation was announced without any such preliminary fanfares. Why?“They illustrated God’s fairness to all His creatures in not intimidating themby suddenly springing on them a ruler and governor, without warning. Onthe contrary, he said to them, ‘come let us make man’ like a king about tolevy tax on his people, announcing: ‘come let us levy a tax on the countryin your interest’.”Others have found the source of man’s distinction in having been createdlast, Radak states: that “it was a sign of man’s honour and elevated statusthat he was created last to make known that all mortal creatures werecreated for his sake and he was made the lord of all them.”Dubnow in the
Biur 
elaborates on the same theme: “Man was the crown ofcreation, a little lower than the angels, possessor of an immortal soul,capable of an intelligent acknowledgment of His creator and ruling theworld by dint of his wisdom. Let us make man, the creator announced. Inother words, after I have created all the foregoing for the sake of man, tosupply his needs and enjoyment, let the master enter his palace.”Man’s status as the aim of creation and his uniqueness are underlined bythe sublime phraseology describing his creation:So God created man in his own image;
 
In the image of God created He him;male and female created He them.The style of the verse is poetic and elevated, the fact of man’s creationbeing referred to three times. The chasm separating man from the rest ofcreation is stressed twice in the statement that he was created in theimage of God. Both the duties, responsibilities and glory of man derivefrom this. In this book
Dat Umadda 
(Religion and Science), Prof. Gutmanndwells on the term: “The image of God” (p. 265):
Zelem 
(image) refers to the personal relationship that canonly be found between “persons”. The personality of man isplaced vis-a-vis the personality of God. For there is areligious approach (not Jewish) that sees the religious idealin the effacement of man’s personality. “Man’s personality isregarded (according to this approach as a barrier betweenhim and things... but this is not the case with an ethicalreligion. Only as long as man is a person can he preserve hisrelationship with God. Man is a world of his own and he is notrequired to merge himself in nature.
 
In other words, every individual is equally significant before God, sinceevery man was created in His image.Therefore man was created on his own, to teach you thatwhoever destroys one soul is regarded by the Torah as if hehad destroyed a whole world and whoever saves one soul, isregarded as if he had saved a whole world. (MishnaSanhedrin 37a)The uniqueness of the individual, a world to himself, unrepeatable isvividly portrayed in the continuation of the same Mishna:
The greatness of the Holy One blessed be He is thus demonstrated. Forwhereas when man prints many coins from one die, each one is a replica of theother, the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He stamped everyman with the die of Adam yet no one exactly resembles his fellow.
Man as soon as he was created received a special divine blessing.However he was not the first creature to be blessed by God, but had beenpreceded by the fishes. The content of both blessings is similar but a verysignificant difference can be detected. Compare the blessing accorded thefishes:...And God blessed them,saying,be fruitful and multiplywith the blessing received by man—Then God blessed them and God said unto them,be fruitful and multiply.The fish do not qualify for a special address to them by God. They aremerely granted the power to be fruitful and multiply. This is their blessing.Man however, besides being given the power to be fruitful and multiply, isespecially
told by God 
to be fruitful and multiply and is conscious of hispower to do so.
 
What is merely an impersonal fact with regard to the restof the animal creation is a conscious fact with regard to man. A similaridea is to be found in the statement in
Pirkei Avot 
(3,14).
Beloved is man since he was created in God’s image; But it was by a speciallove that it was made known him that he was created in God’s image.
 

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