The Greatness of a Person

Bereishis 1:27:

וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹקים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹקים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃

And G-d created the man in his mold; in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them [on the sixth day, forming Eve from Adam’s side].

In His description of the creation of humanity, Hashem tells us of our own greatness, each of us were made betzelem E-lokim.

Whereas when Hashem teaches Noach the Seven Mitzvos encumbent on all humanity, He uses the same idiom, but to make a slightly different point. Bereishis 9:6:

שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם הָֽאָדָ֔ם בָּֽאָדָ֖ם דָּמ֣וֹ יִשָּׁפֵ֑ךְ כִּ֚י בְּצֶ֣לֶם אֱלֹקים עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הָאָדָֽם׃

One who spills the blood of man, by man shall his blood be spilled; for in the image of G-d did He make man.

The lesson here is the level of caution we have to bring to how we treat others. For they too are in His “image”.

Slabodka’s approach to Mussar was often summarized as focusing on “gadlus ha’adam” — the greatness of a person. R Nasan-Zvi Finkel, the Alter, taught each student that they were great. That petty behavior was simply beneath them. To cherish their individual gifts. And he showed his students how to develop those abilities to actually achieve that greatness. A bachur studying in Slabodka dresses immaculately in the height of the latest fashion. A person is inherently a worthy of inestimable esteem; after all, we are no less than “images” of G-d Himself!

Less well known is the other half of gadlus ha’adam. Not only am I to see myself as a holy soul, but the same is true of others, to see them too in the glow of greatness. Gedlus ha’adam motivates my respect for others, my willingness to share their burdens, to do them favors. Who would not accommodate the very the “image” of the Divine?

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