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In the Image of God
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Okay so let's read and see what we find. Vayivrah Elokim et ha'adam betzalmo, betzelem Elokim barah oto, zachar u'nekeiva barah otom. How many elements are there in this first verse over here in verse 27 - verse Chaf-Zayin? Element number 1; Vayivrah Elokim et ha'adam betzalmo - and G-d created man in His image. Element number 2; Betzelem Elokim barah oto - this is going to be element number 2 and here's element number 1. Element number 2; Betzelem Elokim barah oto - seemingly kind of a restatement, in the image of G-d He created him. Element number 3; Zachar u'nekeiva barah otom - male and female He created them.
Okay so now over here we're going to play one of my favorite Sesame Street games. I forget whether I introduced this one to you already, but if you watched Sesame Street when you were a kid you know what I'm talking about. Which One of These Things is Not Like the Other? [Playing of song from Sesame Street.] If you were a Sesame Street junkie when you were a kid then you know what I'm talking about, the music starts playing and on the screen it flashes three or four boxes and one of the boxes just doesn't fit. So the question is you have to figure out which one of these things just doesn't belong.
Now let's pretend that we're playing that with this verse over here, verse 27 in Chapter 1. We've got these elements, which one of these things just doesn't belong? Okay, here's comes music, what do you say? Okay, so for my money it's this one right over here, that third element, it just doesn't seem to belong; Zachar u'nekeiva barah otom Right, I get it; Vayivrah Elokim et ha'adam betzalmo - that G-d created man in His image, in His image He created him, but what does; Zachar u'nekeiva barah otom have to do with anything? Male and female He created them, that doesn't seem to fit.
Okay so usually the real answer - at least in Biblical text - to Which One of These Things is Not Like the Other actually is, is that they all belong, there is nothing that's out of place. It's just you got the category wrong. So the challenge is how do we create a category here that fits all of these three things together? It must be that; Zachar u'nekeiva barah otom - male and female He created them, has something to do with being created in G-d's image. The question is what? Well the next verse offers us a clue. Vayomer lahem Elokim - and G-d said to them; Pru u'revu - be fruitful and multiply. Hmm, how are human beings fruitful and multiply? Well the answer is; Zachar u'nekeiva barah otom - male and female He created them. Oh that's how we're being fruitful and multiply.
What I'm suggesting here is that maybe the Bible - maybe the Torah is actually offering you here an explanation - an immediate explanation of what it means to create man in G-d's own image. It means that G-d is a creator, G-d makes mankind, but G-d is not the only creator of mankind because G-d has granted humanity that ability to reproduce as well, and when humanity reproduces, when we make men, we are a creator in this kind of way, just like G-d.
Now, I can hear your objection already, you say, one second, you can't say that our mere ability to reproduce makes us like G-d? I mean everything reproduces; animals reproduce, plants reproduce. Okay, we'll get to that, as a matter of fact, interestingly enough, the next thing we're going to talk about over here is we're going to talk about animals, we're going to talk about plants. Actually kind of interesting, the other things that reproduce are going to be part of this speech too. How is it that we humans are different than animals, are different than plants, in the way that we reproduce? What is unique about human life in the way that we reproduce that's different than the way animals reproduce, in the way that plants reproduce?
I think the answer is that we are the only ones who know what it is that we're doing, cognitively. We are the self-aware beings, we are the ones who can control what we do. With everything else - with animals, it's instinct and that's it; with plants it's just kind of the way of the world. With humans yes, reproduction is the way of the world, yes, there is an instinctual aspect to it, but there's also an element of mind, and this is where we are G-d-like. There's mind and action together - which by the way gets back to the ideas we were talking about before in the Sabbath; notably, Melacha. Remember how we defined Melacha - creative activity? Creative activity is activity which involves mind together with actions, tinkering with things, making it different in connection with my plan. I have a plan and then I implement that plan in the world of action. That is the common denominator between G-d and man when it comes to reproduction. The two of us, G-d and man, can understand, with minds can plan, and understanding what it is that we're doing can engage in this act of making other men, of making other human beings.
Now of course there is a big difference between the way human beings make people and the way that G-d makes people. Or; Zachar u'nekeiva barah otom. How is it that G-d makes people? G-d makes people unilaterally, all by Himself. G-d can decide, hmm I'm going to create humanity now and all of a sudden poof, humanity is created. That's not the way we create people. For us it takes two to tango, it actually takes male and female, there is no such thing as a human being unilaterally creating another human being, it takes two.
If you just think kind of the rationale behind it - I'm just surmising over here - but the rationale might have something to do with just the sheer and the raw power of what it is that we're doing when we're creating new life. It's the most fearsome power in the world to be able to create or destroy life, and with anything really, really powerful the keys to it are not vested in any one person. If you think about the nuclear silos, missiles, the way the United States has it, no one person can launch a nuclear missile. It takes two people to turn the keys, because it's such a destructive, immense power that we won't trust it in the hands of any one individual.
The clip you're watching on your screen is actually a piece from the 1983 film WarGames which actually dramatizes this idea of the two keys. There you see them both taking out, opening up the lock to get the authentication codes. Kind of watch what happens. [Playing of video clip.] The two officers are on their missiles but then as the countdown continues they get more and more nervous until there's only seconds left. [Playing of video clip.] Finally the enormity of what he's doing sinks in and one of them just can't bear to turn the key. With things this powerful you can't trust any one individual. [Playing of video clip.]
So G-d, the disciplined creator, the inherently disciplined creator who can be trusted with this, has the ability to unilaterally create. We create male and female, it takes two of us to decide to create. Only then, so to speak, can we perhaps be trusted with it.
Okay I've sketched out here the beginnings of a possible way of looking at this set of verses which begins to answer that question on the Bible's own terms what does it mean that G-d created man in His own image. But we've a lot more text over here to go through, we have the rest of this. So if perhaps we're on the right track in identifying the nature of being created in G-d's image as having something to do with this, our ability to create, then how does the rest of this text fit with that? How do you continue to read the rest of the text? So when we come back we're going to take a look at that, meantime, you can take a gander and see what you think, we'll come back and we'll compare notes.
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