(In the Image of God)
So God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
This is the first of two descriptions given in Genesis for the creation of humankind at the beginning of the world. In the second (Gen. 2:18ff), man is created first, and then God forms woman by taking a piece of the man’s “side” (the Hebrew word is tzela, traditionally translated as “rib”) and creating a whole new being. In this original description, however, man and woman are created at one time. Some say that they’re created as a single body, and later each “side” is separated from the other to produce the two individual people we know as Adam and Eve. Others say that they were created as separate bodies, but simultaneously and with completely equal status.
Whichever of the two versions of the human-creation story you choose to believe, what’s essential to understand is that humanity was created in the Image of God (be’tzelem Elohim), and that means that men and women have a purpose on this earth unlike any other creature formed in the first week of existence. Humankind was designed not just to be fruitful and multiply, as every animal is, but to dominate over nature and to explore their inherent powers. What separates us from the plants and animals is that we have within us a spark of Divinity that, if we’re lucky, we can train ourselves to see and develop.
Trying to access that part of ourselves that’s Godlike, the part that strives to make the world a better place and improve our personal traits, is the essential act of Kabala. By working toward recognizing our original holiness, our connection to the Divine source of creation, we begin to journey toward Tikkun Olam (the Healing of the World), which is the ultimate goal of our lives.
A Tzaddik is a righteous person, someone who makes it a priority to bring good things into the world, to give charity, and to give of themselves. You become a Tzaddik by first and foremost learning to connect with the fact that you were created Be’tzelem, in the Image. Once you internalize the fact that you contain within you an essential holiness, a purpose in life, you’ll begin to see that everyone else also has this spark.
You cannot mistreat people—or be racist, judgmental, or cruel to your fellow human beings—if you truly believe that each and every one of us is created in the image of holiness.
To understand that the first person was actually a single man/woman unit, and that every person in the whole of history stems from this original being, is to understand that we’re all truly created equal. Not only must we treat others with respect, we must also learn to treat ourselves with respect, striving to heal the often-ruptured world within ourselves as well as the outside world.
The Tzaddik helps to boost self-confidence. In times of doubt, when we question our personal values and take a cold, hard look at our lives in search of a deeper purpose, it’s crucial to remember our origins: We’re all made in the Image, we’re all righteous people, or Tzaddikim.
Your body itself is holy, just as your soul is. Treat yourself with respect, as you would any holy object: Eat well, breathe, sleep, meditate, be creative, do good for the less fortunate. Only once you can relate to yourself as unique and holy will you truly see others the same way.
It is said that saving one life is like saving the entire world, and killing one person is like destroying the planet. This stems from the idea that in the beginning there was only one person who contained the most vital spark of life that will exist in every person throughout history.
Remember that we’re all linked together in this world, and we’re all crucial to its survival. Without any one of us, the world would be incomplete.