Walking with God
Human cloning is a hot topic and there is much debate medically and ethically. But how do we understand cloning from a metaphysical perspective?
In this week's Parsha, the Torah tells us "to walk in all God's ways" (Deut. 11:22). Every human being is created in the image of God. That makes God our role model. We try to clone ourselves after the Almighty!
Striving for Perfection
In Genesis (Chapter 18), God is talking to Abraham. When Abraham sees three strangers approaching from afar, he suddenly jumps up to offer them food and drink.
On what basis did Abraham prioritize the helping of strangers over talking with God?!
The answer is that even greater than talking to God is to be like God. God is a giver. We are created in the image of God; thus giving is our greatest form of spiritual expression. Abraham achieved great spiritual levels because he emulated God by performing endless acts of kindness.
Yet how can mortal humans possibly achieve the infinite perfection of God?
We can't. But that shouldn't stop us from setting lofty goals. In fact, the secret of Jewish achievement is that we're always striving for ... perfection.
Practical Ways to Emulate God
In describing the mitzvah to walk in God's ways, the Talmud says: "Just as He is merciful, so you be merciful. Just as He is kind, so you be kind."
Various examples of God's kindness include:
- Visiting the sick, as God did following Abraham's Brit Milah (Genesis 18:1)
- Burying the dead, since God personally buried Moses (Deut. 34:6)
- Feeding the hungry, as God did by providing the manna bread to the Jews wandering in the desert (Exodus 16:4)
- Comforting mourners, as God did by appearing to Isaac after Abraham's death (Genesis 25:11)
It is interesting that this list includes only aspects of kindness toward others. There is no mention of judging others or punishing them. That is because only God can stand in judgement. The only reason the Torah permits courts to administer justice is because God grants them that power. The Maharal explains that the Torah refers to judges as elohim – a name usually reserved for God – to teach us that a judge's role is only an extension of God's judgement.
In dealings with our fellow man, the operative word is kindness.
The Torah instructs us to "keep the commandments of God, and walk in His ways" (Deut. 28:9). The Chafetz Chaim notes that the two clauses indicate this is a two-stage process. "Keeping the commandments" is only as good as it brings us to"walk in God's ways" – i.e. perfection of character.
The story is told about pre-World War Two in Europe, when Jews were concerned for their safety and were scrambling to get exit visas. One of Rabbi Aaron Kotler's students decided to take a long train-ride, on the off-chance there might be visa papers waiting for him at the port city. At a connecting stop on mid-route, the student was surprised by the sudden appearance of Rabbi Kotler. "What are you doing here?!" asked the incredulous student.
"Just after you left, a telegram arrived saying that indeed your papers will be ready at the port," explained Rabbi Kotler. "So I took another route and rushed here in order to ease your mind for the remainder of the trip!"
Society is defined by its heroes. Will it be athletes and rock stars? Or God Almighty Himself?
Who would you like your children to emulate?
Rabbi Shraga Simmons
SOURCES: Talmud - Shabbat 127a, 133b; Talmud - Sotah 14a