“And G-d said: Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness…” (Bereishis 1:26).
Parshas Bereishis begins, of course with the creation of the world and everything in it. This process culminated in the creation of man on the sixth day.
Whereas Hashem created everything else simply by saying, “Let there be X,” here in our pasuk, when it comes to creating man, Hashem seems to address an audience. Whom is He talking to, and why?
Says Rashi: “From here we learn the humility of the Holy One, blessed be He. Since man was created in the likeness of the angels, and they would envy him, He consulted them.”
The Medium Is the Message
The Chayei Moshe expands on this profound lesson of humility. Not only did Hashem speak the world into existence, but the nature of every creature was determined by the way He spoke. Had Hashem said, “I shall make man,” in the singular, man too would have desired to be singular and unique in the world, just like His Creator. But unlike Him, that uniqueness would have gone to his head. Therefore Hashem said, “Let Us make man,” imbuing us with His own humility.
Paradoxically, the more we develop our G-d-given humility, the more we actualize our Divine image, our greatness. For wherever we find Hashem’s greatness, we find His humility (Megillah 31a). For instance, the Torah describes the greatness of Hashem as “the
So let us contemplate the great power of humility, implicit not only in man’s very creation but in the very first word of Torah. As it says in the Zohar (vol. 1, 30a), Bereishis = beis reishis, “beginning with two.” In other words, it’s not just about me, it’s about my fellow man. It’s about community.
The Power of Two
Humility makes community possible, and when people care about each other and work together, anything’s possible.
Dorothy Melvin of Los Angeles writes:
It was Elul, and I ran into a guy I had taken a class with at UCLA. He told me his mother was in the hospital. I happened to be driving that way, so I stopped to visit her. “You don’t know me,” I introduced myself, “but I know your son. I just wanted to say hello and see how you are.” She thanked me, and we had a nice chat.
gods and the L-rd of lords, great, mighty, and awesome” (Devarim 10:17), then immediately
adds regarding His humility that “He executes the judgment of the orphan and widow, and
He loves the stranger, giving him bread and clothing” (ibid. 10:18).
“It turns out you live two blocks from me,” I continued. “If you’re out of the hospital by Friday, may I come visit you? We can light Shabbat candles together, and I’ll bring dinner.”
“I’ve never lit Shabbat candles,” she replied, but she agreed.
Unfortunately, she never made it home.
Two weeks later, her son called me. “I’m having a little trouble,” he began. “My mother is in the morgue at St. Vincent’s. She made arrangements at the Hillside Jewish cemetery, but they want thousands of dollars, which I don’t have.”
“Here I go again on the credit card,” I thought. “I have to pay for this.” I sent an e-mail to friends, explaining the situation. “Rosh HaShanah is coming,” I wrote. “If you want a mitzvah, even though it won’t be tax-deductible, send me whatever money you can.”
My friends forwarded the letter to their friends, who did the same. Soon I was getting checks from all over the country. Some people wrote, “I’m not working, so I can only give $5, but I want to be part of this mitzvah.” A few others gave a thousand dollars each.
So many people sent money that it paid for not only this woman’s funeral, but that of her husband a year later. And of a homeless Jewish man in Santa Monica. All from one e-mail!
Question for Discussion
Some people understand that life isn’t all about them. When have you seen that attitude in action, or even acted that way yourself?