‘Human Becomings’October 10, 2023 - 12:00 am
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” — Genesis 1:26
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy, and this week we begin again with the Torahportion B’reisheet, which means “in the beginning,” from Genesis 1:1—6:8.
“Let me fall if I must fall. I will be caught by the one I will become.” I love this quote attributed to the Ba’al Shem Tov, an eighteenth-century Hasidic master. It captures both the reality that, as human beings, we are bound to make mistakes, but also that we have the capacity to correct our mistakes, learn from them, and evolve into better versions of ourselves.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the creation of man. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind…’” The Ba’al Shem Tov commented on this verse that when God said these words, He was actually addressing man himself.
It is as though God turned to the soul of man and said, “Have I got a great opportunity for you! I’m going to put you into a physical body and into a material world. There, you will be able to become something extraordinary—even greater than angels! You will be able to become a human being!”
The name Adam has two meanings. It can mean ‘earth,’ like the Hebrew word adamah, reflecting the fact that Adam was made from earth. But it can also mean ‘similar,’ like the Hebrew word adameh, reflecting the reality that Adam was intended to be similar to God. Adam’s God-given mission was to take the material earth and turn it into something spiritual and God-like. God would start the process, but Adam would have to finish it.
Human beings are created unfinished, so to speak. A more accurate term might be “human becomings” because we are constantly becoming a newer version of ourselves. As physical beings, we are bound to make mistakes, but we also have the ability to rise above our physical nature and become ever more similar to God.
Like any great masterpiece, we are works in progress that will take time and effort to finish. But with patience and persistence, we can accomplish a little more every single day. With the help of God, we can change and grow until we are the creation that God always intended us to be.
Your turn: Reflect upon the kind of person that you want to be and determine which steps you will take to become that upgraded version of yourself.