An Awesome Thought
"Rabbi Akiva would say, Beloved is Man, for he is created in the Image of God(Avot Ch. 3). What does this mean? God is infinite, immortal, immeasurable. The First and the Last. Was, Is and Will Be. He is in the Past, Present and Future, simultaneously. He is not limited by time or nature. There is nothing about God that we can grasp, except his traits and His infiniteness. So what image are we referring to when we say that man was created in the image of God?
The Torah says, "In the image of God, He created him" (Breishit 1:27). The commentators discuss this at great length. Each and every aspect of the discussion is, in itself, a gem, helping us to understand more fully the greatness of man. To notice aspects of Godliness in human beings, one has to read between the lines. Humans are God-like, for they have a soul that is eternal. After death, the soul lives on. Humans are God-like in the sense that they have Free Will, the ability to overcome their nature and choose good from bad. This power of choice is Godly because it makes us an independent force like God.
While coaching, I witness firsthand the God-like characteristics of those that I coach. The power of choice. The gift of creativity. The human capability of having awareness, discovering the problem and creating the solution. Humans have this inborn trait of resourcefulness. If the person really wants something, he can figure out how to get it. God gave us the power to control and overcome our impulses, our habits. He gave us the God-like power to forgive.
"And He blew into his (Adam's) nostrils a neshama, (soul) and he gave him the ability to speak." (Breishit 2:7). The unique human ability to speak should not be taken at its simplest level, for a parrot can also speak. Rather, God gave humans the distinctive capability to communicate. To transport an idea between the two parties of the discussion. The human species can make plans and execute them.. Humans can be creative. God created the world through speech, and He gave us the power to create and destroy through speech. Relationships. Civilizations. To bless and curse.
Man is awe struck when witnessing God in this world. The more we see Godliness, the closer up we get, the more fascinated we are. The Swiss Alps and Grand Canyon are breathtaking in reality, and so is witnessing the Godly aspect of man. An original painting is mesmerizing, when you see the God-like ability of man to plan an idea and paint it. When someone communicates a deep idea or grasps the attention of an audience through painting a story in his speech, the crowd is spellbound by his capability of communication. Any new idea or creativity brought into existence is remarkable. Coaching people to overcome their limitations, change their habits, is mindboggling. When godliness of man comes to light in its full glory, I am sitting front row, center aisle.
The more I coach, the more I learn about this Godliness. I can connect to anyone, from any race, sect, social group or nationality, by looking for their Godliness and honoring it. Because the greatest honor you can give a person is honoring his Godliness. Respecting his opinions, his choices and ideas is respecting his Godliness. You can make anyone your friend, if you listen to him and show him that you understand what he has communicated, for by doing so, you have respected the Godly trait of communication that he possesses. Asking for forgiveness is respecting the Godliness of the person, admitting that he can find in his heart the Godly power to forgive. When someone is entrenched in some kind of a problem, if you plan out the solution too fast, not giving that person the time and chance to tap into his own creativity, to figure it out himself, you have robbed him of his Godliness. This Godliness is the root of all self esteem. It is the most important part of his self-image.
In this week's parasha, we are forbidden to call another person derogatory names, or to act with any other form of belittlement. "You shall not wrong one another" (Lev 25:17). The sentence continues to say, "And you shall fear your God". What is the connection?
When you call your friend unintelligent, weird, boring, you are not "fearing" the Godliness in that person. His ability to create new habits, his ability to change. The Baal Shem Tov would say, if you want to talk to God, you will find Him standing on your enemy's shoulder. Go ahead and respect your enemy's Godly ability to forgive, and his God-like ability to be aware of what he has done wrong. Respect his ability to choose a new way, and change.
Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died, for they did not respect each other. We cannot fathom their greatness, but we are told that it was their lack of respect for one another on their level that brought about their deaths. So, Rabbi Akiva's mantra in Ethics of the Fathers, his message to us all is never to forget, even for a minute of your life, that Man is God-like. How awesome.