Choosing Good Over Evil

For a long time it has bothered me what the Torah means by: "God created man in His image" (Genesis 1:27). Given that human beings are finite and corporal, how are we created in God's image?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Obviously the "image of God" is dealing with the non-physical part of us - the soul. Our drive for morality and meaning, our drive to make a difference is from the soul which is in the "image of God."

But there's more to it than that. Just as God has independent choice, so too does each human being have independent moral choice. The image of God means that we have the ability to choose.

Choice is the essential issue of what makes us special? Because life only becomes meaningful due to our ability to choose. For example, the difference in being "programmed to love" and the choice to love, is precisely what makes love significant. In other words, if I have the ability to choose good or evil, the good becomes significant.

But it goes deeper still. For choice to be authentic, there have to be consequences. If every time I get in trouble, dad comes to bail me out, that's not really choice. Choice means consequences.

Sometimes God does make a miracle, but it is typically in a way that is not obvious, that enables us to retain free choice.

In the 1991 Gulf War, 39 Scud Missiles rained down on Israel and only one person was killed. It was a miracle, but God still left open at least the possibility for someone to say, "No, there was no miracle. It was a fluke of nature."

So now we can understand that "image of God" means that God created beings who have the ability to make decisions, and those decisions will create consequences that will make this being a co-partner in the development of the world.

For free choice to operate, evil has to have the possibility of existing. If every time someone chooses to do evil, God is going to interfere, then there's no moral choice. If every time the gun is pointed, the turret points backwards, after a few times you'll get the message. If you eat pork and get struck by lightning, then you're not "morally choosing," you just see it doesn't work. It simply becomes pragmatic not to do evil.

If the lives of the righteous were obviously perfect, that too would destroy the possibility of choice. Pragmatically, we'd figure it pays more to be righteous because look at the millions of dollars that come my way! That's not choice. That's not becoming God-like.

In other words, a world where a human being can create himself into a Moses, also carries the possibility of a person creating himself into a Hitler.

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