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His first book showed that the mythic ideas of the Talmud about the human person as

literally the image of God in which the human was also in the physical image of God
and that human were raised to a divine status. In turn, these ideas were continued
and developed in diverse ways by Maimonides and Nahmanides.
From a review by Joshua Kulp
The central thesis of Lorberbaum�s book is that according to the rabbis, the
meaning of imago dei is that there is tangible divine presence within every human
being. This concept impacted primarily upon two areas of halakhah: the death
penalty and procreation. Since humans are physical representations of God,
execution is equivalent in some ways to deicide. Conversely, procreation is
strongly mandated because it increases God�s physical manifestation in the world by
creating more vehicles in which to embody God�s presence.
Importantly, as �images� of the divine, human beings function as icons in a manner
similar to the way idols function in the pagan world; they draw God�s presence into
themselves, blurring the borders between representation and form. Finally, the
drawing of God�s presence into the human body dictates that human beings are
embodied with significant theurgic powers.
God�s presence in man pertains, according to the Tannaim, to all the components of
his psyche, as to the physical ones� (Image of God, p. 19).
A central image that nurtures the halakhic process and provides a basis for the
tangible bond between God and man is the �King and His imagery� model. Thus, for
example, the midrash from Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael:
How were the Ten Commandments given? Five on one tablet, and five on the other. By
writing �I am the Lord your God,� and opposite it, �You shall not murder,�
Scripture states that if anyone sheds blood, Scripture regards this as if he
diminishes the image of the King. This is comparable to a flesh-and-blood king who
entered a province, and portraits of him were set up, images were made of him, and
coins of him were minted. Some time later, his portraits were overthrown, his
images were smashed, his coins were canceled, and thus diminished the image of the
king. So, too, if anyone sheds blood, Scripture accounts it for him as if he
diminishes the image of the King, as it is said [Genesis 9:6]: �Whoever sheds the
blood of man � for in His image did God make man� (Image of God, p. 301).
Lorberbaum takes note of the manner in which a single idea is explicated in
different circumstances, thereby functioning as a sort of curator of works of art
whose depth is realized when they are placed one next to the other. This is a
breathtaking act, that enables us to follow the series of interpretive processes
from which the Rabbis� worldview was built.
The book ends with a chapter that describes the transition from the focal point of
sanctity in the Temple to the conception that man is the location of the current
domicile of the Godhead on earth. This process, that began in the early Pharisaic
literature, intensified upon the destruction of the Temple: �Although God had left
the Temple, He did not desert the earth. To the contrary, in many senses He is much
closer, because He is present in man (in every man), who is made in His image�
(Image of God, p. 468).
The second conclusion is halakhic. In one of the key sentences in his book,
Lorberbaum argues that the idea of the image of god is not the personification of
God, but a claim of the divine dimension in man. Patently, any fundamental myth
(whatever it may be) does not exempt us from the mission, the Sisyphean effort, to
establish the image of God in man in our actions: in the activity of educators and
medical staff, who cope on a daily basis with the patient�s flawed image of God; in
the courts, the media, the army
The idea of creation in the divine image has a long and complex history. While its
roots apparently lie in the royal myths of Mesopotamia and Egypt, this book argues
that it was the biblical account of creation presented in the first chapters of
Genesis and its interpretation in early rabbinic literature that created the basis
for the perennial inquiry of the concept in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yair
Lorberbaum reconstructs the idea of the creation of man in the image of God (tselem
Elohim) attributed in the Midrash and the Talmud. He analyzes meanings attributed
to tselem Elohim in early rabbinic thought, as expressed in Aggadah, and explores
its application in the normative, legal, and ritual realms.
In God�s Image�is the long-awaited English translation of Yair Lorberbaum�s
2004�Zelem Elohim: Halakhah ve-Aggadah, which was based on his 1997 doctorate at
the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Hebrew edition was awarded the Goldstein-
Goren Prize for the best book in �Jewish Thought� to appear in the years 2004-2007.
It is, without question, an important work of scholarship, combining insightful
interpretation of rabbinic texts with a trenchant critique of some core assumptions
that have shaped the modern study of classical Jewish sources.
The critique centers on the scholarly denial that the early rabbis, the Tannaim,
could have held anthropomorphic views of God. The book�s first three chapters
survey the arsenal of techniques employed by earlier scholars to undermine such an
interpretation: relegating anthropomorphic statements to the status of �folk
sayings� (which were then cheerfully ignored); casting them as rhetorical
flourishes (again, cheerfully ignored); interpreting them as an emotive reflection
of the rabbis� sense of intimacy with God, even as, per the modern scholars, the
rabbis maintained their analytic conviction in God�s absolute transcendence;
identifying references to God�s physical and psychological traits with actions
(�outstretched hand� is glossed by �mighty action,� �merciful� by �merciful
action,� and so on). Lorberbaum�s dismissal of these techniques as the result of an
Enlightenment commitment to rabbinic rationalism is not, however, sufficiently
nuanced. Surely Gershom Scholem�s adherence to rabbinic non-anthropomorphism has
different roots than Hebrew University rabbinics scholar Ephraim Urbach�s�but the
critique itself is a significant corrective to these earlier views. Lorberbaum also
devotes a chapter to the distinction between�halakhah�and�aggadah�(roughly, legal
and non-legal/homiletic, respectively) sources, though this topic is less pertinent
to the English reader.
The real contribution of�In God�s Image�lies in its treatment of early rabbinic
legal sources, chiefly the Mishnah. Through a series of sensitive readings,
Lorberbaum shows that the tannaitic laws governing judicial execution are
undergirded by a theology of�imago Dei. As a result, the Mishnah goes to great
lengths to ensure that the body of the executed (which is the physical likeness of
God) not be disfigured�with far-reaching consequences for the formulation of the
modes of execution. Moreover, Lorberbaum demonstrates, tannaitic sources
reinterpret the biblical command �be fruitful and multiply� through the theological
prism of�imago Dei. No longer a sign of mankind�s dominion over the earth,
procreation is interpreted in terms of the physical manifestation of God�s form:
humans are, ultimately, living icons to the living God, analogous to the dead
statues glorifying the (by implication, dead or unreal) gods of Greco-Roman
paganism.
The book does suffer from a number of shortcomings that ought to be borne in mind.
Lorberbaum�s consistent reference to �the rabbis� and �the rabbinic view� obscure
important distinctions within tannaitic sources, most significantly the division
between the schools of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ishmael. Whatever biographical
significance we attribute to these names (I tend toward a minimalist view), it is
uncontroversial that there are sustained, identifiable theological differences
between the legal sources associated with each school. Indeed, Abraham Joshua
Heschel�s�Heavenly Torah as Refracted Through the Generations�(a work Lorberbaum
mentions in his introductory survey) is devoted to the tannaitic views (plural) of
God and God�s image. It is also disappointing that Lorberbaum does not explore the
broader cultural and religious context of the rabbinic texts. Though he notes the
significance of emperor worship and the role of statues in Roman religion, he does
not explore the points of contiguity in a meaningful way. And there is no attempt
to examine rabbinic conceptions of�imago Dei�alongside the contemporary theological
reflections of early Christian authors. The book appears to have been translated
�as is� from the Hebrew, without engagement of scholarship published in the
intervening years; the bibliography ends around the year 2000.
A separate issue is the English edition�s accessibility to the broader scholarly
community. The identity of modern and classical authors is considered self-evident.
The views of scholars such as Heinemann, Urbach, Kaufmann, Kadushin, and Liebes,
alongside authors like Krochmal, Brenner, and Ishaiyahu Leibovitz, among others,
are cited without historical context or introduction; words like�haskalah�(�the
Jewish Enlightenment�) should be translated or, at a minimum, glossed. Non-
specialist readers would surely have benefited from a brief introduction to the
sources�the difference between the Mishnah and the tannaitic midrashim, the
approximate floruit of Babylonian sages, and so on. Greater attention to these
matters would have made the important scholarly insights of�In God�s Image�more
readily accessible to a broad range of English readers.
About the Reviewer(s):�
Azzan Yadin-Israel�is�Professor of Jewish Studies at�Rutgers University.
Date of Review:�
May 19, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s):�
Yair Lorberbaum�is a Professor in the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, where
he lectures on the philosophy of law, Jewish law, and Jewish thought. He has been a
guest lecturer at Yale University, Cardozo Law School, Princeton University, and
NYU Law School, and he has served as the Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law at the
University of Pennsylvania Law School. Professor Lorberbaum's book The Image of God
(Tselem Elohim): Halakhah and Aggadah (2004) was awarded the Goldstein-Goren Prize
for the best book in Jewish thought for 2004�7.

The idea of creation in the divine image has a long and complex history. While its
roots apparently lie in the royal myths of Mesopotamia and Egypt, this book argues
that it was the biblical account of creation presented in the first chapters of
Genesis and its interpretation in early rabbinic literature that created the basis
for the perennial inquiry of the concept in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yair
Lorberbaum reconstructs the idea of the creation of man in the image of God (tselem
Elohim) attributed in the Midrash and the Talmud. He analyzes meanings attributed
to tselem Elohim in early rabbinic thought, as expressed in Aggadah, and explores
its application in the normative, legal, and ritual realms.

Yair Lorberbaum.�Image of God, Halakhah and Aggadah. Tel Aviv: Schocken Publishing
House, 2004. 544 pp.
* Joshua Kulp�(a1)�
*
o https://doi.org/10.1017/S0364009405240096
o Published online:�07 September 2005
Extract
The central thesis of Lorberbaum's book is that according to the rabbis, the
meaning of�imago dei�is that there is tangible divine presence within every human
being. This concept impacted primarily upon two areas of�halakhah: the death
penalty and procreation. Since humans are physical representations of God,
execution is equivalent in some ways to deicide. Conversely, procreation is
strongly mandated because it increases God's physical manifestation in the world by
creating more vehicles in which to embody God's presence. Importantly, as �images�
of the divine, human beings function as icons in a manner similar to the way idols
function in the pagan world; they draw God's presence into themselves, blurring the
borders between representation and form. Finally, the drawing of God's presence
into the human body dictates that human beings are embodied with significant
theurgic powers.