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In the Image of God
Video 4 of 5
Vayomer Elokim hinei natati lachem et kol eisev zore'ah zerah - as we're reading this I'll translate - I want you to pay attention to words that you think are superfluous. If you were an editor how could you cut out a whole bunch of words here without sort of doing any damage to the meaning of the text? Seemingly there's a whole bunch of words that are repeating themselves, what are they?
Vayomer Elokim hinei natati lachem et kol eisev zore'ah zerah - and G-d said, here I'm giving to you mankind; Et kol eisev zore'ah zerah - all of these grasses that bear seeds; Asher al pnei kol ha'aretz - upon the face of the earth. V'et kol ha'etz asher bo pri etz - and all trees that can bear fruit; Zore'ah zorah - that can bear seeds; Lachem yiheye l'ochlah - to you shall be to eat.
Okay, so look at that phrase again, what are the superfluous words here? What stands out as words that you could have gotten rid of? Well for my money they are these words right over here - and it happens twice. This doubled form of a verb and a noun, it's kind of hard to translate into English, but I'll do my best to be very, very literal about it. Over here you have it as yielding seed but the literal translation would be something like seed seeding. It's the verb form of the noun. Yields over here - the verb is actually just the verb form of the noun of seeds. So seeding seed, maybe let's put it that way. Hinei natati lachem et kol eisev zore'ah zerah - I've given you all grasses seeding seed; Asher al pnei kol ha'aretz - upon the face of the earth. V'et kol ha'etz asher bo pri etz - and all of the fruits that have fruits; Zore'ah zorah - seeding seed; Lachem yiheye l'ochlah.
The question is why is it that I need to hear about that? In other words, I could have gotten rid of this - if we just got rid of these words altogether, take yielding seed out of here, would it have been so terrible? Would it have been so hard to understand? And G-d said I've given you all these grasses upon the face of the earth and all these trees that can bear fruit; Lachem yiheye l'ochlah - it actually would have read a little bit easier. How come - what's the meaning of this? How come we've got all of this business about seeding seeds? What do you make of that?
Well in light of what we've seen up here actually it's quite fascinating. What have we seen? What does it mean for man to be created in the image of G-d? We've said, we've posited, that it means that man is a creator just as G-d is a creator. How so? Well there's a technological aspect to creation and there's a biological aspect of creation. Pru U'revu - we are at the top of the food chain, we can multiply at will without fear that a predator above us is going to pick us off, we are at the top of the food chain. Pru u'revu u'mile'u et ha'aretz - be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and conquer it.
And, what these verses are talking about is our relationship to the rest of the world. What's the rest of the world? Well there's the animal kingdom over here in these verses and there's the plant kingdom over here in these verses. The human relationship to the animal world followed by the plant world. Well what's our relationship to the animal world? We can dominate it, right? We are the ones who can reproduce at will and are at the top of the food chain, we can dominate the animal world; Vekivshuha - we have the capacity to think, to technologically conquer the animal world.
But now let's talk about the plant world, what's our relationship to the plant world? Well we can dominate them too, but how so? In a certain way even more than we dominate the animal world. G-d has given us the ability to eat plants - which we can't eat in the animal world - but not just to eat plants but to eat the plants' seeds. Think about that in terms of the nature of our domination. How is it that we dominate? Part of our domination of the plant world comes from our complete mastery of our ability to eat plants. That is to say, not only do we eat plants, but what part of the plants do we really eat? Think about men, think about us, mankind, what part of plants do we really eat? What is man food? Later on we'll talk about animals, animals eating plants too, but man eats plants differently than animals eat plants. What do we like to eat in the plant world that animals don't like to eat?
The answer is that we process plant food, we make it into bread. Bread is the quintessentially human food. How do we make bread? Well we take wheat, we harvest the wheat - what does harvest mean? Harvest is just a euphemism for killing it, right? We cut it down, we kill the wheat. But after we kill the wheat it's not just good enough to kill the wheat, we actually let it die out there in the field, slowly. A plant actually after it's cut can still live, it can still be green. But we actually dry it out over a period of months until it's incredibly brittle and then after that what do we take? We take the little seeds. We take the seeds, the kernels of wheat and we crush them into nothingness, and out of that we make flour and out of that we make our bread, we make our food.
We specifically actually take the seeds, which is our ultimate domination of the plant world. We, the ones who can reproduce, who can take our seed and reproduce, our domination of the plant world is so complete that not only can we eat them - something - a privilege we don't have with the animal world quite yet, in Noah's world we can eat animals but not in Adam's world. But not only can we eat plants, but we can actually eat their ability to reproduce. The last chance of the wheat to be able to reproduce itself, even though it's dead, is to take the seeds and to put them out into the ground so there can be other wheat, we can take those seeds and make bread for ourselves. That's really what we're being given over here in this third verse of the speech.
What's interesting actually, finally, is how that contrasts with the very last piece over here, which is how animals relate to the plant world. Animals also dominate the plant world just like us, but they dominate it in a slightly different kind of way, they too can eat plants, but they eat plants a little bit differently. Not only do they not make bread, but listen carefully - they'll eat seeds also, they just won't make bread out of them. Listen to how the verse portrays it. U'lchol chayas ha'aretz - I've also given animals the right to eat plants; U'lchol ohf hashomayim - and birds; U'lchol romess al ha'aretz asher bo nefesh chayah - all life that traverses the land; Et kol yerek eisev l'ochlah, vayehi kein - I've also given them grasses to eat. And so it was. Now look what's missing here, what piece of verse 29 is missing when you get to verse 30? The answer is this piece. Now does that mean that animals can't eat seeds? No, of course animals eat seeds. So how come it doesn't say over and over again you're eating seeds, you're eating seeds?
I think the answer is animals eat seeds but they do it without being self-aware, without understanding the significance of what it is that they're doing. We the creators, the self-aware creators, the sentient beings, who express ourselves as creators in the image of G-d by reproducing biologically and creating technologically and understanding what we're doing, mind together with actions. We understand what it means to extinguish a piece of wheat's ability to reproduce by taking seeds that's meaningful, that means something to us. Even though we have that power, we should understand what it is that we're doing, you don't just eat. To just eat without understanding, to eat mindlessly, is to be an animal.
We've talked now about what it means to be created in the image of G-d, perhaps G-d's speech to mankind on the sixth day offers us a clue. It means to be little creator in emulation of Big Creator. It means to be able to bring new human life into this world, in the biological realm, just as G-d can do. It means being able to dominate our world, to be able to mould nature to suit our needs. Just as G-d did in the process of creation, so we do in our process of creation on the six days of our week. In means to be able to understand as self-aware beings what it means to dominate the rest of the world, and even as we do so, to cognize the significance of the price that is paid as we the human beings who can procreate at will consume even the seeds of the plant world. If you just look at G-d's speech to man it's a speech that seems to crown him with incredible power, incredible creative power.
But the ultimate responsibility that emerges from that power is something that G-d demonstrates by example on the very next day, the responsibility to stop, the responsibility to let go, the responsibility to allow the things that you create to be independent. The goal is to be able to let go and to establish a relationship with what it is that you create. The goal is not to allow creativity to snowball out of control and ultimately to destroy itself. [Interlude of music.] The goal is to be able to rest. It's a goal that G-d in the beginning, in the first seven days of creation, models for us. G-d models what it means to rest. Big Creator rests while little creator looks on and ultimately, over time, little creator will learn the secret to disciplined creativity as well.
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