by Batya Hefter
“And God created the Adam in His Image”.
“’Through my flesh I shall perceive God’ – through the Divine image within the human being a person will come to know and have the reality of God revealed to him.”
To be created in the image of God, according to Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, (1565 –1630) [also known as the Shelah ha-Kadosh, after the title of his best-known work] gives you access to know Him. We are hard wired to know God by knowing the essence of our own souls. But this is tricky and requires a lifetime of work.
Since I am created in the Image of God the source of any characteristic that I have is a revelation of God in me. This will immediately raise eyebrows –you mean that my personality traits are reflections of Hashem? Well… yes, in potential, but in truth, it will require constant, conscious, lifetime effort. The assumption that rests behind the Shelah ha-Kodesh’s words is the foundation upon which all of Chassidut rests. A person is created in the Image of God…in potential. The “image” is expressed in the middot, characteristics which we possess. Personality characteristics are initially unrefined. We have a tendency to only see things from our own perspective which is colored by self-interest and may lack altruism. In religious terminology we would say – not l’shem shamayim. It takes a lifetime of rigorous introspection and spiritual and moral labor –avodah to refine our middot. The extent to which one refines one’s middot is the extent to which one’s ‘tzelem’ reflects the Image of God. This is what we mean when we say that God dwells within us as he dwells in the Sanctuary.
With the Tishrey Holidays behind us and the entire year before us, we can greet each day as an opportunity to work towards this goal. I earnestly pray that the Torah learned in our Beit Midrash contribute towards our becoming a sanctuary for His indwelling.