SALT - Monday, 24 Tishrei 5781 - October 12, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Torah in Parashat Bereishit tells of the creation of Adam: “God said: Let us make a person in our image and in our form…” (1:26).  The Gemara (Sanhedrin 38b), as cited by Rashi, notes that God here speaks in the plural form – “na’aseh” (“let us make”) – as though He was speaking with others in reaching the decision to create a human being.  This verse, the Gemara writes, could lead to heresy, as it could be misinterpreted to mean that God is not the sole divine being, and He needed the involvement of other gods to create the human being.  The Gemara cites this verse as one of several examples where a heretical argument anchored in a verse in the Torah is refuted by a different verse in that same context.  Here, although the Torah speaks of God making His announcement in the plural form, the Torah later states, “The Lord created Adam in His image…” (1:27) – clearly indicating that God created Adam alone, without anybody else’s assistance.
            When we examine the human being, we might be led to assume that he is the product of multiple “creators.”  After all, we have within ourselves so many directly opposing and conflicting elements and tendencies.  We are both kind and cruel; generous and selfish; patient and impulsive; intelligent and foolish; controlled and undisciplined; ambitious and lazy; refined and coarse.  Our conduct, too, is so often contradictory.  We act one way today and much differently tomorrow.  We constantly change our opinions and our preferences.  A pagan would examine the human being and conclude that it must have been created by a variety of different forces, as only diverse origins could explain such diverse tendencies and properties.
            The Gemara therefore draws our attention to the fact that although “na’aseh adam” – we were created with many different and conflicting components, nevertheless, “va-yivra Hashem” – these were all given to us by the one, true God, and each person is, in fact, a single being.  We were created as complex beings, and this complexity is integral to the human experience.  Whereas regarding angels it is said, “One angel does not fulfill two missions” (Bereishit Rabba 50:2) – they are simple, one-dimensional entities, capable of following just a single, narrow direction – the human being is complex and multifaceted, and this is precisely the way God created us.
            When we find ourselves struggling with our own tendencies, we must recognize that this struggle is inherent to the human experience.  We should not aspire to become people who automatically, robotically and instinctively always do the right thing, like angels.  We should expect ourselves to struggle, and to occasionally make mistakes, precisely because we are complex and self-contradictory creatures.