“So G-d created man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him” (Genesis 1:26).
According to many commentators, the meaning of “the image of G-d” is intelligence, freedom of choice, and the ability to shape and influence reality. In countless teachings, our Sages present a picture of man as being essentially higher than the angels and a partner with G-d in the rectification of the world.
In the previous sections, we discussed two of the three major characteristics of love–the kernel point of love present in every process of revealing and actualizing potential, and love’s water-like nature to descend, drawing potential down into reality. The “true something” represented by faith, is born through a state of “nothingness” emerging into the “something” or reality of the world through the characteristics of the heart, represented by love.
The three words in Hebrew for “faith,” “self-nullification” and “love” when added together equal 162, the same numerical value as b?tzelem, “in the image.” This three-stage model serves as a guide for delving into the deepest recesses of the soul, identifying one’s inherent talents, purpose and destiny in life and the focused means to achieve and fulfill that calling. Even more than this, one rises by means of these qualities to the level of “the image of G-d,” that lofty but achievable goal and ultimate gift of our Creator.
It is written about both Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Noah (Genesis 6:9) that they “walked with G-d,” but to Abraham G-d said, “Walk before Me and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1). The Zohar finds fault with Noah, in that his self-nullification before G-d may have been too great, evidenced by his not pleading on behalf of his generation, whereas Abraham pleaded for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gemorah and Moses for the People after the sin of the golden calf (Zohar 1:254). Though all three men were righteous, their willingness to reach out and save others was not equal. Walking “before G-d” alludes to Abraham’s level of devotion and sense of responsibility for rectifying the world.
The three levels of faith, self-nullification and love all manifest in the life of Abraham, the first Jew, as he pioneered a new path in the recognition and consciousness of G-d. Abraham is called in the Midrash “Eitan Haezrachi“; “Haezrachi” can also be read as “the one who plants seeds in the future.” Every action of Abraham not only paved the way for all Jews in the future but, because of the awesome intensity and intention of his every deed, his qualities of faith, self-nullification and love were etched indelibly on all subsequent Jewish souls.
G-d’s first communication to Abraham was “go [lech] for yourself, from your land, from your place of birth and from your father’s house to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). By giving Torah law the name halachah,meaning literally “walking,” the Jewish People continue in every generation the ideal of walking with, and ultimately before, G-d. A beautiful allusion is found by multiplying the word for “love” (ahavah, 13) times that for “self-nullification” (bitul, 47); the result equals “Torah” (611). For us to be partners with G-d, we must not only learn Torah and observe the law but “become” Torah itself. By nullifying our will to His will we become clear vessels for G-d’s will to manifest in our lives and the world as a whole. Just as we stand in the presence of a Torah scroll, so too we are taught to stand in the presence of a Torah scholar, considered to be a “walking Torah scroll.”
A further understanding of the role G-d desires for the Jewish people is stated in the verse (Genesis 18:17-18): “And G-d said, ‘Shall I conceal from Abraham what I do, now that Abraham is surely to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him?” The idea that “the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him” points to the natural evolution of love. When love succeeds in bringing potential to fruition, one can further identify and enlighten hidden potential in others as well. This ability to bring out the best in every person and situation is the task envisioned by the prophet Isaiah when he prophesied that Israel was to be “a light unto the nations”(Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).” The key element in the fulfillment of this prophesy is love, the light of G-d revealed in the world.