“And God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)
What is the difference between “image” and “likeness,” that God declares His intent to create man with both? Man is a dual creature, having both a physical and a spiritual component, a body and a soul, unlike any other creature on earth. The “image” is the physical component of man, the body, while the “likeness,” is that which is more “like” God, the non-physical component of man, the soul. But God says, “in our image,” as though God himself shares this duality, having some sort of physical manifestation. Of course God is completely non-physical, His Infinity being beyond physical limitations, so what is this “image”? According to the deeper commentaries, the universe is not simply a “creation” of God, but the entire creation is an EMANATION of God, that is, all of creation is rooted in the Creator, its existence inextricably bound to Him, and reveals, to some degree, the Source from which it emanates. The universe, then, in relation to God’s Infinite Essence, is like the physical body that “clothes” the Infinite Essence at its source. God is the “soul” of the Universe, permeating it and bringing it to life. So too, man’s Godly, non-physical soul is clothed in the physical body and brings it to life. Based on this analogy, just as we interface with a person’s physical manifestation (the body) to connect with them on a deeper, spiritual level, so too is the universe a window of connection to God. If we contemplate the natural world and its wonders, we come to a deeper knowledge and awareness of God, as well as a greater connection with Him. The opportunities for connection with Hashem are all around us — take advantage of them!
Based on Shla”h, Parshas B’Reshith
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