We are told to live holy lives, remembering we are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. What does this mean?
Professor/Rabbi Arthur Green in his new book Radical Judaism (pg. 121-2) offers this teaching in the name of Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel:
“Why are graven images forbidden by the Torah?” I once heard 20th century Jewish thinker Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel ask. Why is the Torah so concerned with idolatry? You might think (per Rabbi Moses Maimonides) that it is because God has no image, and any image of God is therefore a distortion. But Heschel read the commandment differently. “No,” he said, “it is precisely because God has an image that idols are forbidden. You are the image of God. But the only medium in which you can shape that image is that of your entire life. To take anything less than a full, living, breathing human being and try to create God’s image out of it-that diminishes the divine and is considered idolatry.” You can’t make God’s image; you can only be God’s image.
I learned from my teacher Rabbi Jonathan Slater, of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, that “This is a wonderful way to understand the meaning of the prohibition of idolatry, and is suggestive for how to live. That is, how can we live our lives so fully, so honestly, so freely that we make God manifest through us? How can we avoid making ourselves into an imposter, a fixed image of God, an idol?”
May this Shabbat provide you with moments to reflect upon how to live more holy lives.