“G-d created man in (with) His image. In the image of G-d, He created him, male and female He created them.”(Genesis 1:27)
What does this prominent principle issued in the first book of the Torah teach us about ourselves, about the Jewish people, and about others? Being created in the image of G-d is much more complex than its literal translation and carries many layers of deeper meaning. We are creators, and we work to return the world to its intended state of repair. Like G-d, we cease from creating on the Seventh day (Shabbat), and we rest.
In the book, Living in the Image of G-d: Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World, Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg proposes that being created in the image of G-d implies that each person is “endowed by the Creator with certain fundamental dignities, that among these are infinite value, equality, and uniqueness.”
Can you imagine looking into the eyes of everyone you meet and treating him or her as though they possessed immeasurable worth, that their unique self was vital to the tikun (repair) of this world, and as if their place in this world was as essential as your own? We are to be curators of the lessons each interaction with another brings us and understand that each of us has a piece of G-d within us.
Being created in the image of G-d makes us different than all of G-d’s other creations. It infers a sense of responsibility and duty in how we treat others and how we teach our children. We become morally accountable to G-d and to one another, and we are judged for our actions.
Anne Frank recorded in her diary: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are basically good at heart.” Many would say that the tenants of Judaism tell us that man and woman are inherently good. “All Israel,” the Talmud states, “have a portion in the World to Come.” The interwoven conditions of accountability and free will establish man’s responsibility to refrain from doing evil. It is this abstinence that draws us closer to becoming more G-d-like.
These are lessons we must model for our children. We must show them that there is a Divine spark within everyone. We must teach them to treat everyone accordingly, even when others don’t treat us that way. Perhaps even more importantly, we must make our children feel that they were created in the image of G-d and that their life is one of great worth, their individuality invaluable to the world.
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” (Albert Schweitzer) The manner in which we behave toward others is an indication of our personal relationship with G-d. We must treat everyone as though he or she has the ability and willingness to rekindle a wavering spark within us.
In the image of G-d, we were created. In the image of G-d we create. In the image of
G-d, we regard others. In the image of G-d, we see our own Divinity.