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

Jerusalem

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GENESIS — 1:27 image

The biblical doctrine of man is based on the presumption that man is the creature of G-d, and as such must acquire the proper perspective of his place in the world. While the uniqueness of man in the Divine order is constantly emphasized, it is equally made clear that the besetting sin of man is pride.  Man the creature forgets his status and arrogates for himself the prerogatives of his Creator. The Scriptures express their estimate of man by affirming that he was created in the image of G-d [this verse, 5:1, 9:6]. This judgment implies that there is a similarity, in some profound sense, between man and his Maker. Yet ultimately man resembles G-d no more than a shadow resembles a real person. [The Hebrew word tzelem is derived from tzel (“shadow”). Cf. Mandelkern’s Concordance, s.v. tzelem. See, however, the Lexicon of Gesenius-Brown (Oxford, 1959), where tzelem is derived from the root meaning “To cut out.” Cf. Also commentary of Sampson Rafael Hirsch to Genesis 1:26 who derives the word from salmah, meaning an external frame or cover.] In the first chapter of Genesis the creation of man in G-d’s image is narrated. The second chapter relates how man succumbed to the temptation of striving to be like G-d. The serpent persuades man that G-d is envious of him, for if he were to eat of the forbidden fruit he will become like G-d, knowing good and evil (ibid. 3:5). Man is enjoined to walk in G-d’s ways Deut. 10:12; 11:22; 26:17 and to be like Him: “Holy shall ye be, for holy am I the Lord your G-d” Leviticus 19:2.  But the path trodden by those who aspire to holiness is fraught with grave hazards and disastrous pitfalls. See Mahsheboth Harutz by Rabbi Tzadok ha-Kohen of Lublin, No. 1. This paradox constitutes the terrible predicament of man’s life and the tragedy of his history. Cf. Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, passim and his other works. The doctrine of man as created in the image of G-d is the ground for the mandate of imitatio Dei. Simultaneously, imitatio Dei defines the extent to which the doctrine of the image of G-d can be applied. While the image of G-d describes the essential nature of man, its relevance is restricted to the sphere of action. Man is not G-d, he cannot become G-d, but his behavior can be G-dlike.  It is thus clear that holiness to which man is called is not so much a holiness of essence as a holiness of conduct. This distinction clarifies the chasm that obtains between Judaism’s imitation of the ways of G-d and pagan concepts of apotheosis and identification with, and absorption in, Deity. [The attempt to relate the imitatio Dei of Judaism to pagan notions, as is done by Israel Abrahams (Pharisaism and the Gospels, II, pp. 138-139), appears to this writer to be misleading. The imitation of the ways of G-d is the very antithesis of man’s striving to be G-d. The first is man’s great virtue, the second his greatest blasphemy. See the direct contrast in Exodus Rabbah 8:1-2: G-d shares His greatness with men; but there have been men who, because they have been divinely endowed with great gifts, proclaim themselves G-d! It is just as likely that man’s striving to become G-d is a distortion of the imitatio Dei which enjoins man to follow in the ways of G-d as that imitation Dei is an emergent of the former.] KELLNER 127-8
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

The challenge that you and I face in our lives is nothing less than the developmental story of our species, which means doing what we can to free ourselves from the dictates of our primitive natures and establish the governance of our higher self, the soul.  “A man should always incite his good inclination against the evil impulse Berachot 5a is how the rabbis of the Talmud put it.  Every day many times a day each of us engages in this struggle.  … In every decision and choice you make, there will be an option that represents the way of the higher self, and another that answers the call of the lower self.  MORINIS 39
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

The commentators take the statement to refer to G-d’s attributes. He gave His creatures the power to emulate His middoth; to do good and to act with kindness towards their fellow men, as Scripture has it (Psalm 134:9): “G-d is good to all …” (Psalm 136:25) “He gives food to all flesh, for His chesed endures forever.” The existence of the entire world then depends on this virtue …  AHAVCH 82
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

The idea set forth [in this and the preceding verse] is perhaps the most transformative in the entire history of moral and political thought. It is the basis of the civilization of the West with its unique emphasis on the individual and on equality. It lies behind Thomas Jefferson’s words in the American Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal [and] are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” These truths are anything but self-evident. They would have been regarded as absurd by Plato, who held that society should be based on the myth that humans are divided into people of gold, silver, and bronze and it is this that determines their status in society. Aristotle believed that some are born to rule and others to be ruled. Revolutionary utterances do not work their magic overnight. As Rambam (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, or Maimonides; 1135 – 1204) explained in The Guide for the Perplexed, it takes people a long time to change. The Torah functions in the medium of time. It did not abolish slavery, but it set in motion a series of developments--most notably Shabbat, when all hierarchies of power are suspended and slaves had a day a week of freedom--that were bound to lead to its abolition in the course of time. People are slow to understand the implications of ideas. Thomas Jefferson, champion of equality, was a slave owner. Slavery was not abolished in the United States until the 1860s and not without a Civil War. And as Abraham Lincoln pointed out, slavery’s defenders as well as its critics cited the Bible when discussing their cause. But eventually people change, and they do so because of the power of ideas, planted long ago in the Western mind.  SACKS 3-4
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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
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

There are … compelling reasons for rejecting the hedonistic doctrine that ethics revolves exclusively around considerations of pleasure or pain. As the bearer of the image of G-d, each human being possesses irreducible dignity, sanctity, and inviolability. Quantitative or qualitative factors do not affect that status.  According to the Tanna Ben Azzai, this is the pivotal doctrine of the entire Torah. J. Nedarim 9:4. Concern for the sanctity of life always overrides considerations of social utility. It is categorically prohibited to commit suicide or to kill an innocent person, no matter how much such acts would contribute to the general welfare. “Active euthanasia,” however noble the motive, can never be condoned, even if intended solely for the purpose of ending the suffering of a patient. Because of the absolute sanctity of every human life, it is strictly forbidden to take one life in order to save another life, however valuable. Ohalot 7:6, Terumot 8:12. One may not sacrifice even one individual in order to save a large number of people.  Maimonides, M.T. Yesodei Hatorah 5:5.  The only exception to this rule is when dealing with an aggressor. Be it in self-defense or in defense of another person, if there is no other way to save the victim, Jewish law mandates that one should kill the aggressor. Similar considerations rule out accepting the offer of terminally ill persons to sacrifice their lives for the benefit of another individual. However hopeless their condition, they are not permitted to donate their organs for transplants, if the procedures will inevitably shorten their lives – even if only by a few minutes. Depriving an individual of chayei sha’ah (a minimal duration of life) represents an act of killing, which cannot be condoned. Yoreh Deah 339:1. Obviously, were our ethical norms solely based upon social utility, we would adopt an entirely different attitude.  But since the overriding concern for the sanctity of life is based upon the biblical doctrine that [this verse], it is totally irrelevant that the donor of the organ is anyhow on the verge of death, whereas the prospective recipient might yet make vital contributions to society.  As bearers of the image of G-d, both possess equal value. ETHRESP 59-60
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

Traditionally, we are obligated to respect ourselves and others, as we are all created “in the image of G-d” [this verse]. Additionally, Mordecai Kaplan discusses salvation as a quest to fulfill our potential.  In order to effectively achieve these goals, we must care for our health and well-being. “Man has a physical organism… The healthy functioning of that organism is a prerequisite to mental and spiritual hygiene.” (Kaplan, The Meaning of G-d in Modern Jewish Religion).  AGTJL 479
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

What makes man uniquely man, with the spark of the divine and different from all creatures in the world, is his ability to think and use knowledge gained from those thoughts.  Therefore, all scientific investigation and any other endeavors where man uses his brain is very much part of Judaism. Seforno commentary.  Maimonides goes even further. He begins his book of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, by saying that it is man’s duty to use his intellect to discover and try to understand the Creator.  The very brain that is criticized by other religions as an instrument of secularism and as antireligious must be used by the Jews in pursuit and understanding of G-d. Through man’s investigation and understanding of the physical world (normally called science), he will come to a better understanding of G-d.  Laws of Foundations of Torah 1:1, 2:2.  AMEMEI 242
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

You, the person reading these words, are precious.  Your worth is not rooted in your wealth, physical attractiveness, or status in society, but derives from the fact that you, like every other human being, are created in G-d’s image.  During moments of self-doubt or even self-loathing, which almost all of us experience, remember the divine image inside you, and that G-d loves you: “Humans are beloved for they were created in the image of G-d. An extra measure of love is shown them by [G-d’s] making it known to them that they are created in G-d’s image” (The Ethics of the Fathers 3:14). A well-known passage in the Mishnah notes that, by originally populating the world with only one person, Adam, G-d intended to teach that each life is of infinite value: “Therefore was Adam created singly to teach us that he who saves one life it is as if he saved an entire world, and he who destroys one life it is as if he destroyed an entire world.” The Mishnah goes on to teach that each person, as Adam’s direct descendant, should say, “For my sake was the world created” Sanhedrin 4:5.  There is always some special mission for you, something in this world that only you can accomplish.  TELVOL 1:239-40
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