We’re Only Human: Bereshit 2016

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Leadoff Chatter: Ancient Greek philosophy states that language is the only thing that separates humans from animals. Are there other traits that differentiate people from other beings? Are there certain occasions that we show ourselves to be more “human” than others? Are there times when we, and those around us, act in an “inhuman” way?The creation of humanity is the crowning passage of the first Creation narrative in the book of Genesis, the episode that we will read about in synagogue tomorrow morning.

The Pitch: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.’ And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27

Swing #1: “This explains the statement of the Sages that ‘he who is arrogant is as if he were worshipping idols’ (Sotah 4). If a man considers himself better than the others he does not act in keeping with the spirit of God’s declaration: ‘Let us make man,’ by which He taught us the way of humility, namely, that the greater should consult the smaller (as God consulted with the angels in making man). He who does not accept this interpretation of God’s pronouncement obviously must think that it was meant to be construed literally as meaning that – Heaven forbid – there was more than one God who made the world. And this, of course, is idolatry.” – Proshat Derakhim 

Swing #2: [In Genesis Rabbah 8:5,] Rabbi Simon taught that at the time when the Holy One came to creating the first human being, Love said, “Let the creation occur for this creature will do loving things.” But Truth said, “Let the creation not occur for the creature will be all lies.” Justice said, “Let the creation occur for this creature will do justice.” What did the Holy One do? God took Truth and hurled it to the earth. What good would it do to only banish the Truth? Peace, which had also argued against the creation of human beings, still remained. The answer is that in banishing Truth, obviously there would be Peace. For the root of quarreling is that everyone battles for his own truth. But if Truth is pushed off to one side, then there is nothing left to argue about, no one to denounce Peace.” – Menahem Mendl of Kotsk

Swing #3: “The creation of humanity ‘in the image of God’ in Genesis 1:26-27 represents a democratizing adaptation of the royal theology … creation ends, as it were, with the commission of human agents to rule the world in the name of the creator God.” – Jon D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil

Late-Inning Questions: What, according to our commentaries, is the main purpose of humanity? Is it to pursue peace? Is it reject idolatry? Is it to be partners with God? Are any of these possibilities consistent with your view of the purpose of humanity?

On Deck at Emanu-El: I want to express my gratitude to the synagogue staff and lay leadership for making the recent Fall holidays a meaningful and moving experience. And of course, we could not have done it without everyone’s attendance and participation. I believe that the year 5777 is off to a promising start!

The Big Inning at the End: Go Cubs. And may the Schwarber be with you.

Shabbat Shalom!