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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

In the Image of God

Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith states: "I believe with perfect faith that God does not have a body. Physical concepts do not apply to Him. There is nothing that resembles Him at all."

What, then, is Genesis 1:27 referring to when it states: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him." Is this a "spiritual" image?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Does God have ears because it says, "God heard the sound of your words" (Deut. 1:34)? Does God have a mouth since it says, "God spoke to us" (Deut. 1:6)? Does God have an arm since it says, "I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm" (Exodus 6:6)? Does God have a hand, as it says, "I raised My hand to give it to Abraham" (Exodus 6:8)?

Nope!

So why does the Torah use human terms to describe God?

Because the human mind is limited, and therefore lacks the ability to conceive of God who is perfect. So the Torah describes God in familiar terms, in order that we should grasp aspects of God's character. For example, we can appreciate that God has the power of communication (mouth), the trait of kindness (right hand), etc. This is a very deep subject and is the basis of volumes of Kabbalistic work.

As for the specific verse you cited in Genesis, what does it mean to be "in the image of God"?

Humans are like God in the sense that we have free will. Free will does not mean picking chocolate over vanilla. That's simply a preference, just as a cow chooses to eat hay instead of grass.

Rather, "free will" refers to decisions which are uniquely human: a moral choice to do right or wrong. This stems from the divine soul that is unique to all human beings.

There are times when you know objectively that something is good for you, but your physical desires get in the way and distort your outlook. The animal soul within us wants to choose the easy path, which may not be the morally correct choice. Sometimes we can actually hear ourselves fighting it out. Here's a conversation you may have had with yourself:

Divine Soul: "Let's get out of bed early today and really accomplish something meaningful!"

Animal Soul: "Leave me alone, I'd rather sleep."

Divine Soul: "Come on, let's be great!"

Animal Soul: "Relax, what's the big deal if we wait till tomorrow?"

What's going on? Are you schizophrenic? No, just battling opposing sides within yourself. And that's what makes the human being so unique. Of all God's creatures, only humans can become elevated through choice, as we are not bound in our decisions by any pre-ordained laws. That's truly divine!

To learn more about free will, go to www.aish.com/sp/f/48965061.html

Bar Mitzvah Jitters

My Bar Mitzvah is coming up and I’m freaking out. I know how to read my Haftorah, but I’m afraid I’ll freeze up and forget it all on the big day. It will really embarrass me and my family. What should I do about all this nervousness before the Bar Mitzvah?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Since the Jewish people began, countless numbers of boys have been nervous before their Bar Mitzvah. And do you know what? Somehow they all managed to survive!

I heard a beautiful story that I'd like to share. A boy was very nervous about his upcoming Bar Mitzvah because he would have to read from the Torah in front of everyone. He practiced for months and months, but he was still very nervous.

Finally the big day arrived – and the boy read the Torah 100 percent perfectly!

Afterwards, the rabbi asked the boy how he managed such an impressive performance. The boy replied, "When I first started practicing many months ago, you told me that I will need to read the Torah so clearly that if a blind man were in shul he would be able to follow. I was so nervous when I got up there today, but then I looked around and, lo and behold, a blind man was sitting there with a Braille Bible. I blocked everything else out of my mind and concentrated on reading so that the blind man could follow!"

It seems to me that focusing intently on something will help you not only during the synagogue service, but in the week before your Bar Mitzvah as well. You need to have something else to think about that you find interesting. Whether it's building a rocket ship, or figuring out how you're going to spend your Bar Mitzvah money! Focus on something special and make it your project for the week.

Mazal Tov! We know you'll do great.

(True story from "In the Footsteps of the Maggid" by Rabbi Paysach Krohn. The upshot is that the blind man just happened to be visiting that Shabbos, and had never been in that synagogue before!)

Shehechiyanu Blessing on Major Purchase

I just bought a used car. Is there any sort of blessing or prayer I say for it?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Yes! There is a special blessing of thanks we recite on making any major purchase, thanking God for allowing us to reach another happy occasion.

If you are the only beneficiary of the car, then the appropriate blessing is as follows:

Baruch attah Ado-nai Elo-hainu melech ha’olam she’hechiyanu v’kiymanu v’higiyanu la’z’man hazeh.

Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time.

If both you and others will benefit from it – such as if it is a family car, then the blessing is a different one:

Baruch attah Ado-nai Elo-hainu melech ha’olam hatov v’ha’maitiv.

Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, who is good and who does good [to others].

What types of items do we recite this blessing for? The item must be significant and it must bring joy to the purchaser. What sort of item brings joy will to some extent depend on the financial status of each person, but generally speaking the blessing should be recited on the purchase of any major household item and appliance, as well as important items of clothing (other than shoes). A car, even a used one, most definitely rates. Enjoy!

(Sources: Talmud Brachot 9b, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 222:1, 223:6, Mishna Berurah 13,24, V’Zot HaBracha p. 166).