Counting the Omer with Barry Horowitz
Day 31 — Loving God’s Creatures
Oheiv et HaBriot • אוהב את הבריות
By Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, Los Angeles, California
The biblical verse that has most impacted my life is Genesis 1:27. It is repeated similarly in Genesis 5:1. It is emphasized by Ben Azzai in the Talmud as the most important verse in all of the Torah “that every human being is created in the image of G-d.”
This verse has always spoken to my soul, to the G-d within, to my intuitive swift grasp of truth. I have always felt G-d’s spirit in this created life. When I look at the complexity of the human condition, the uniqueness of each human life, the capacity to achieve extraordinary accomplishments from the construction of huge skyscrapers to minute computers, from the beauty and majesty of nature to my own inquiring mind searching for meaning, I know that within the grandeur and the mystery is the Holy Spirit, my intimate partner, the Force that stands behind it (and within me) and that compels me to follow the implications of the verse that every human being is created in the image of G-d.
I believe that all the details of the Torah are an elaboration of this central idea, and attempt to concretize in every aspect of life the values that follow from the fact that every human being is created in the image of G-d. Thus I believe to work to remove injustice in the world, to support the hungry in body and spirit, to be responsible to our own gifts and actualize our blessed destinies in this world are mandates that follow this exalted verse in our time-limited existence. The verse is universal in nature, suggesting, as Abraham Joshua Heschel captured, “that God is either the G-d of every human being, or the G-d of no human being.”
Moreover, as I look at other verses in the Torah that may present challenges to me as a person living in the 21st century, I always weigh them in the light of this primal verse; and if I encounter certain traditions or values that have arisen in my community due to fear (that contradicts this primary value), I turn to this verse as a guide to my response and my soul knows its truth.
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