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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 1:27 image

(Continued from Exodus 15:2 adorn SPERO 86). It should be pointed out, however, that the essential sources of [the rabbinic teaching imitation dei] are not the commands to “walk in G-d’s ways” but rather the existential premises in the Bible concerning the nature of man that have already been treated: Man is created in the image of G-d. If we examine the relevant biblical passages, we find there the occurrence of two terms: “image” (tzelem) and “likeness” (demut). The passage reads: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” [this verse]. The rabbis saw the terms “image” as referring to a fixed universal component which confers irreducible value upon man, while the terms ‘likeness” refers to his destiny rather than to his origin, to a state to be achieved rather than to something already possessed. The rabbinic interpretation is to the effect that while G-d creates man in His "image,” the “likeness,” which is the process of becoming like, lies in the hand of man. Man can achieve this by walking in the ways of G-d, by clothing the naked and visiting the sick, by being merciful and kind.  Pesikta Rabbati 46b, Genesis Rabbah 49:29, Yalkut Reuveni on this verse  SPERO 86-7

GENESIS — 1:27 image

The term kavod seems to be used in the Torah to signify different things. Sometimes, particularly in connection with G-d, kavod, translated as “majesty” or “glory,” seems to refer to the outward manifestations or visible expressed effulgence associated with Divinity. Examples of this use are such passages as “The kavod of Thy kingdom” and “the entire earth is filled with His kavod.” Yet even in this usage, the word kavod does not simply refer to some sort of “light” or celestial clouds.  To perceive the kavod of the Lord is certainly to experience inwardly some appreciation of that which is the distinctive essence of G-d insofar as it is given to man to experience. Therefore, when used in connection with man, as in the rabbinic phrase, kavod ha-beriyot, it naturally slides into meaning “worth” or “value” or “dignity,” which is tied in to man’s individuality or selfhood and equated with his inner personality. In many passages in the Book of Psalms, the word kavod refers to man’s self or soul.  Genesis 49:6; Psalms 16:9, 30:13, 7:1, 13:10  As such, man’s kavod, or dignity, comes to mean his intrinsic value, not as a means to an end but as something absolute in and of himself. But in Judaism man is so endowed because he was created “in the image G-d,” which according to Nachmanides means “as it is written, ‘… and thou has crowned him with kavod and glory’” which refers to man’s intelligent, wise and resourceful station. See his comments on Genesis 1:26. Man’s dignity is therefore to be equated with his freedom, his creativity, his responsibility and his self-consciousness. Kavod is indeed something that is felt subjectively by man within himself. SPERO 162-3

GENESIS — 1:28 rule

Morality As Grounded In The Nature of Man. What, then are the grounds of morality?  We have already referred to the morality of Judaism as being theonomous, or grounded in G-d. But since G-d created man in His image, morality may be said with equal validity to be grounded in the nature of man as well. What does Judaism teach us about the nature of man? Biblical and rabbinic literature make it clear that man is not like the other creatures, completely a part of nature, but like G-d stands apart from and, in some sense, transcends nature. This we learn not only from the specific instructions given to man in the Pentateuch to have “dominion over” the other orders of creation, but from an important stylistic innovation. [this verse]. All of the other portions of the universe, including living creatures, are brought into existence without any prefatory remarks as to what G-d has in mind or is intending to do. Only in the case of man is the description of the creative act preceded by the announcement: “And the Lord said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” Genesis 1:26  Furthermore, in bringing into existence all of the other living things, G-d, as it were, addresses portions of nature already in existence and commands, “Let the earth bring forth … Let the waters swarm …” Only in the case of man does G-d exercise His original creative power in a direct, unmediated fashion: “Then the Lord G-d formed man of the dust …” Genesis 1:11-20  In regard to the creation of man, we are told: “And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him.” “Then the Lord G-d formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7  It is not clear whether “image of G-d” is identical with the inspiration of a divine soul. Rabbinic usage seems to indicate that the concept of “image of G-d” carries the additional implication of a special dignity which attaches itself to the body of the person as well as to his soul. Kariv, חכמים מסוד pp. 121-122.  The rabbis saw this mode of creation as expressive of a “special love” on the part of G-d which fashions man as a dual creature belonging to both the “lower” and “upper” orders.  Sifrei, Ha’azinu, sec. 306  There is something distinctive in man, which has its source in G-d, and which might be associated with the capacity to think and speak conceptually, to choose freely, and to be self-reflective, that makes man a responsible moral agent.  Thus, the passages which describe man as “giving names to all the beasts of the field” seem to suggest a degree of intelligence which involves empirical observation, conceptual power, and linguistic skills. Genesis 2:19-20  Furthermore, man is commanded, held responsible, and punished for disobedience, all implying the freedom that gives rise to moral agency. Deuteronomy 30:19  Finally, whatever the exact nature of the “knowledge of good and evil” acquired by man, it is evidently a sort of moral cognition that invites divine comparison: “Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil.” Genesis 3:22 This, of course, may not mean “one who is able to determine what is good and what is evil” but simply “one who knows that there is good and evil in the world.”  SPERO 75-6

GENESIS — 1:28 subdue

There is a view of man’s obligations under the Torah, found in the writing of Bachya Ibn Paquda, which leaves no room for the morally optional. Duties of the Heart, pp 213-217. In examining the nature of the service that ma is duty-bound to render G-d, his creator and benefactor, Bachya initially speaks of a threefold division of human activities: those that are commanded, those that are prohibited, and those that are permitted. The commanded and prohibited are, of course, all of those beliefs and emotions, speech acts, and deeds, whether by commission or omission, which are the subject of specific rules in the Torah. But when he begins to examine the area of the permitted, which covers all of the practical activities involved in preserving one’s health, managing one’s affairs, and transacting business and basic social activities, Bachya makes some further distinctions depending on the manner in which these aforementioned activities are performed. If, for example, one provides for one’s basic needs in a way which can be regarded as adequate and sufficient, and one does this for the sake of G-d, then one has actually fulfilled a divine command. For man has been told, “…be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it,” and “Good is the man who … guideth his affairs with discretion.” [this verse, Psalm 112:5]  However, should one go about these practical affairs in a manner which is extravagant and excessive; should one overindulge in the pleasures of life and the pursuit of riches, against which we have been warned that they may lead to transgression and immorality, then one is doing what has been forbidden. For the Torah warns us: “Be not among winebibbers, among greedy eaters of meat,” and, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin,” and, “Labor not to be rich.”  Proverbs 23:20, 10:19, 23:4 Should a person deny himself what is necessary in any of these, but if his motive is neither piety nor a desire for closer communion with G-d, then he too is doing that which is prohibited. Bachya therefore concludes that in reality all human actions fall into two classes only: those that are commanded and those that are prohibited. SPERO 172

GENESIS — 2:7 speaking

In recent years [published in 1983 – AJL] the behaviorist approach in psychology has grown in popularity, mainly as a result of the work of B.F. Skinner. In a recent work, he argues that the real problems of society can only be solved by what he calls “behavioral technology,” a sort of conditioning in which desirable behavior is made to pay off.  New York Review of Books December 30, 1971  Skinner maintains that behavior is not determined from within but rather from without, by changing the environment. Man’s behavior, he claims, is completely predictable, and the knowledge already exists for a science of control. His conclusion is that man can no longer afford the illusion of freedom and the anarchy and disasters that it has spawned.  It is perhaps not completely coincidental that the most devastating critique of Skinner’s book was written by Noam Chomsky, whose work in linguistics had led him to a rather unconventional conclusion. Reflections on Language (New York: Pantheon, 1975). Pp. 12, 40.  In the course of his work, Chomsky has been tremendously impressed by the complexity of human language. He finds it remarkable that a child can “learn” to speak a language; to understand the grammar on relatively slight exposure and without specific training.” Chomsky denies that there exists a “learning theory” that can account for the acquisition of language skills through experience. Instead, Chomsky prefers what he calls the “innateness hypothesis,” which holds that one of the faculties of the mind, common to the species, is a faculty of language that “provides a sensory system for the preliminary analysis of linguistic data and a schematism that determines a certain class of grammars.” If so, then it would seem that the language faculty is unique to human beings. “It is a reasonable surmise, I think, that there is no structure similar to the Universal Grammar in non-human organisms and that the capacity for free, appropriate, and creative use of language as an expression of thought with the means provided by the language faculty is also a distinctive feature of the human specifies having no significant analogue elsewhere.” [this verse]. This will come as no surprise to students of Judaism, who will recall that the words in Genesis, “And man became a living soul,” are translated by the Targum as “a speaking spirit.”  SPERO 273

GENESIS — 2:15 tend

While no clear indication is given in the [Genesis] text to the precise meaning of “image of G-d,” tradition has variously identified it with such uniquely human capacities asfreedom of the will, reason, self-consciousness, moral deliberation, invention and the use of language (conceptual symbols), and cultural creativity.  Initially the only task given to man beyond the “natural” ones of to be “fruitful and multiply … and subdue the earth” is to obey the command of G-d. [See Seforno on this verse, who suggests that the words ולשמרה לעבדה may refer to man’s soul. Thus, man was placed in Eden to “cultivate and guard” his own spiritual capacity].  SPERO 60

GENESIS — 3:12 she

The tragedy of man’s initial sin lies not only in his disobedience of G-d, but in his typical and pitiful attempt to evade responsibility, to push the blame on to the other. The man says: The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” And the woman says: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” [this and following verse]. SPERO 237

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