“Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:25)

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

I write this for my nephew Aden who will soon be Bar Mitzvah. Mazel tov Aden!

It is because within earthly creation, man alone possesses an intellect—a soul—that he and no other creature is like “God’s image.” Man is similar to God in his capacity to engage wisdom. But animals, plants and minerals have no intellect. Plants and minerals are inanimate, and animals cannot reflect on themselves or ponder what is right or wrong, they can’t talk, or discuss what math or philosophy is. Therefore, Torah says that man alone was created in “God’s image.”  

God needs no being to assist Him in His creations. Why then did God say to the angels “Let us make man?” Rashi comments:

Although the angels did not assist Him in forming man, and although this use of the plural “us” may give heretics an occasion to rebel (i. e. to argue in favor of their own views), yet the verse does not refrain from teaching proper conduct and the virtue of humbleness, namely, that the greater (God) should consult, and take permission from the smaller (angels); for had it been written, “I shall make man”, we could not, then, have learned that He spoke to His judicial council but to Himself. 

And as a refutation of the heretics it is written immediately after this verse “And God (alone) created the man”, and it is not written “and they created”  (Gen. 1:26, Rashi).  

Rashi teaches that God wished to set an example for man: just as God took counsel with the angels when creating man, man too should take counsel from his subordinates. Why? 

Learning is our primary task; it is why God created man “in His image.” Humility allows a person to learn from any person who might have something to share. “Ben Zoma said, ‘Who is wise? He who learns from every man, as it is said: ‘From all who taught me have I gained understanding’” (Psalms 119:99).  The man who is wise, is one who does not place ego before his pursuit of wisdom. He is interested in wisdom over any other concern in life. So he is not embarrassed to learn from even a child. 

Therefore, God teaches man to be humble, and consult with even lesser individuals. We don’t wish to lose an opportunity to gain wisdom, which is possible even from lesser individuals. King Solomon named is book “Koheles,” which means assemblies, to teach that he did not rely on his own wisdom, but taught in assemblies of other wise men to gain feedback and critique. Bouncing ideas off others allowed his ideas to be refined, where errors can be detected by others and removed from his book.   

But Torah continues as Rashi stated, that it was God alone who created man, “And God created the man.” Taking counsel is one matter, but man’s actual creation was due to God alone, as was all creation including angels, proving God does not need angels to assist Him in anything.