Quotables: Wild Judaism
by Rabbi Mike Comins
In the below passage, the 13th century Torah commentator Nachmanides, the Ramban, shares his extraordinary view on tzelem Elohim, the image of God. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make the human in our image, after our likeness.” The immediate problem is the plural language. Who is God speaking to? Besides God, in whose likeness, at least in part, does God presumably create the human?
The second issue is that in our chapter, the verb bara (create) is used only when God is the subject, and only in two instances: the first act of creation (Genesis 1:1) and here, with regard to the human (1:27). In the first instance God, it is reasoned by medieval, religious philosophers like Nachmanides, created the universe yesh m’ayin, that is, creatio ex nihilo, something from nothing. (This is in opposition to the plain meaning of the text, where we meet an already created universe of tohu v’vohu, of chaos. For various reasons, this was unacceptable to the philosophers.) Since the verb bara appears again with reference to the creation of the first human, many conclude that people, too, were created yesh m’ayin. Not so, says Ramban.
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