We are the Image of God
Rivka Olenick
"And God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Bereshis 1:27
This is a very confusing statement, and what is the purpose of reading the above idea twice, or is it two separate ideas? I want to focus on the concept of tzelem, "image." How is it possible for male and female to be created in the "image of God?" God has no image; no image has God. In fact, if we were to conjure up in our mind a defined image, form or picture of God, this is considered avoda zara, idol worship. It is considered avoda zara because to create our own "picture" of what we think God is, we create a distorted or incorrect picture or image because there is NO picture of God. Children always ask: "What does God look like?" The brain needs to create an image automatically in order to identify it. However, God should have no form that is perceived by our brain, which becomes visible to our mind. If we read the pusuk as it is, and let our imagination wander we would create this one image of God that is male and female. "in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them," is not a simple visual perception. Image does not become images in creating "them." God and His created being/s are two completely different entities.
So what does tzelem, "image" mean? We read later in the Bereshis 2:7, it states that God formed man from the ground and breathed into his being, making man a living human being with a character and personality. Even further into the chapter we read that God formed woman from man, but their tzelem, their "image" had already created. What is the difference between form and image? Are we saying that "them" meaning male and female were created, in an image only, but without form or existence? In the dictionary it says: Image: To represent or form an image of; to figure, to portray, to deliniate. For form it says: "To shape, figure or form. The particular way of being that gives something its nature or character; the combination of qualities making something what it is." Here we have an insight into the difference between form and image. It seems that an image is something that is not yet active. Although God formed Adom, he was still basically lifeless, only when God "breathed" into Adom, did He give him his character, the natural way Adom would be. His tzelem would make him, a "living soul," speaking, perceiving and doing according to the Ramban.
But, how does the Torah define image or "tzelem"? The tzelem or image does not refer to the physical aspect of man. Tzelem or image is defined as the intellectual aspect of man. As the Ramban said: "Perceiving, perception of knowledge by way of the intellect." God gave us the capacity to perceive Divine intellect, His wisdom as this is what "in his image" means. At the same we are to understand clearly that God has no physical form and we don't imagine that He does. We do not apply image in the physical sense, to God. The Torah defines image as the divine intellect given to us by God; that only man has and which animals do not have. Man was given the ability to distinguish good from evil, true from false and in doing so that becomes man's intellectual pursuit. Animals have no such pursuit. At the same time we were endowed with a body, our physical self, made out of flesh and blood that we need. However, God's essence and existence is perfect with no need for any physical form. Yet the part of us that is our "Godly self" is the part, the "tzelem" that God gave us to perceive His wisdom, His knowledge.
Further God created the human form, the body for a specific purpose, which is to be holy. Our "moral self" meaning our holy self is activated by our body. Without our body and its urges and forces we cannot possibly sin. With our body God commands us to dedicate ourself to the removal of sin. "Sanctify yourself and be holy." God gave us the opportunity to live an elevated existence through our body, and our tzelem, the Divine aspect of our intellect. Male and female He created them. Male and female individually are to live their life in pursuit of knowledge and truth. Male and female together as one live in harmony in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Samson Raphael Hirsch explains so beautifully: "Keeping the body holy is the foundation of all ennoblement of the spirit, and the preparatory condition for all spiritual greatness; and the higher spiritual and mental greatness is reached, the more serious are the demands made for the control and dedication of the body. The bond of God with Israel to rebuild a purer mankind begins with mila, circumcision dedicating the body to God. A whole list of God's commands have the definitely expressed purpose of begetting, feeding and keeping the body pure and fit for the spiritual, mental and moral likeness of God in Man, that he remains a "tzelem elokim."

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