D’var Torah: Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal

I always loved Parshat B’reshit. It is the first chapter of the Torah and it says it all: The creation of the universe, the birth of living creatures, the fashioning of the first humans—Adam and Eve—love, marriage, jealousy, birth of children, sibling rivalry and fratricide, the formation of various tribes and nations, the insidious appearance of evil, etc. Perhaps the greatest verse is chapter 5:1: “And God created humans in His image.” Rabbi Akiva stressed the importance of this passage when he stated (Mishnah Avot 3:8), “Precious is humanity for having been created in the image of the Divine.” We are not merely animals; were are sentient, intelligent humans with the unique ability of choosing good versus evil and of developing our intellect and creating a better world.

What can one say as we scan the world and witness such brutality and cruelty among the nations? Is this the way God planned things? And what shall our reaction be when our own nation—the land that welcomed the poor and persecuted and homeless masses to its shores of freedom and opportunity would wall-off millions and designate them as “criminals, rapists, murderers, drug dealers,” etc.? Had this attitude prevailed, my ancestors never would have made it to America in the 1880s, fleeing Czarist pogroms.

We need to study B’reshit carefully, once again. We need the religious leaders of all faiths to reemphasize its great teachings and value-system. We need politicians who are not just fixed on getting reelected but who stand for the principles that made America great and a beacon to all the other nations on earth, inspiring them to copy our example. Rabbi Tanhuma said it best in this wonderful passage (Genesis Rabbah 24:7): “

Whoever curses, deprecates or degrades another human being it is as if he cursed, deprecated or degraded God, because the human being is created in His image.”

Perhaps we might send a copy of this quote to all of our religious leaders, politicians, and school principals. Maybe, then, the hopes and dreams of the Creation tale might be realized?

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