Parshas Bereishis describes the creation of mankind, along with the creation of the rest of the world. However, a unique description is given to the creation of man which is not attributed to anything else. The verse says (1:27), “Man was created in the reflection of God.” This is a most astounding statement. A human being has an aspect of godliness that no other creature has.
In what way is a person like God? The Nefesh Hachaim (gate 1) explains that God is constantly giving life and putting into existence everything that exists, both in the physical world and in the spiritual world. Similarly, God has given a person the power to influence the existence of the spiritual worlds. When a person does a good deed, or even just thinks a good thought, he adds power and sanctity to spiritual worlds of holiness. And when a person acts in a way he shouldn’t, he weakens, or even ruins, spiritual worlds of holiness.
Human beings were created with unlimited potential of greatness in a way that reflects the greatness of the Almighty Himself! We cannot begin to fathom the greatness of mankind. The mere fact that we have some resemblance to God is a most incredible fact which attests to the greatness of man.
During the Holocaust, a wealthy individual who was about to be sent to the gas chambers, handed Rabbi Chaim Kreisworth documents which had access to a Swiss bank account he held. He asked Rabbi Kreisworth to please find his children and give them the information. After the war, Rabbi Kreisworth attempted to locate a descendent who would inherit the funds. Try as he may, he could not find a single surviving relative.
Twenty years later, he chanced upon a pauper. The rabbi struck up a conversation with him, and he realized that the pauper had the same last name as the owner of the Swiss bank account. Further prodding revealed that the pauper was indeed a son of the deceased fellow who deposited the documents in Rabbi Kreisworth’s hands decades ago. As soon as he realized who he met, Rabbi Kreisworth apprised the pauper of his good fortune. The poor fellow had to borrow money to fly to Switzerland, and in the end, he returned with thirty million dollars!
After this experience, Rabbi Kreisworth said, “Now I understand the meaning of the Mishnah. The Mishnah (Avos 3:14) says, ‘Man is cherished, for he was created in the reflection of God; special fondness has been made known to him that he was created in the reflection of God.’
What is the meaning of the words, ‘special fondness has been made known to him?’ The answer is that if man was not informed of the greatness he possesses by the fact that he was created in the reflection of God, it would be of no value to him. He would be like this poor pauper who owned thirty million dollars, yet at the same time he was a pauper all these years. A person who is unaware of his wealth, for all intents and purposes is poor.
So too, God made sure to let us in on this information about the greatness man possesses in order for us to utilize this special status we intrinsically have. However, if we fail to appreciate this aspect of ourselves, we are like the multimillionaire who lived as pauper…”
Now that we have a little glimpse of just how great a human is, it is incumbent upon us to take advantage of the tremendous favor God did for us by revealing our wealth to us. The fact that our actions have such a profound influence is extremely empowering. The idea that such tremendous greatness is attributed to us, compels us to aspire to higher standards of conduct. Learning to appreciate the unbelievable greatness man possesses is crucial to understanding how much greatness we can achieve. How can we afford to ignore this fabulous, inborn wealth we each have?
Parshas Bereishis by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (email@example.com)