This week we completed the annual cycle of reading the Torah and started again with the Torah portion of Bereishis (Genesis 1:1–6:8).
The word Torah means more than “the law” or “bible.” The root of the word Torah is “horah” which means “instruction.” As it says, “instruct (horos) the children of Israel” (Leviticus 10:11).
The Torah is a source of transformative instructions which affect our body and soul.
In this week’s Torah portion, there is a valuable spiritual lesson derived from two words used to describe the creation of man. The verse reads, “Let us (plural) make man in our (plural) image” (Genesis 1:26).
Missionaries error in thinking that the words “us” and “our” teach that God is a duality.
However, the Torah teaches that “there is nothing else” (Deuteronomy 4:35) besides God. God also transcends the limitations of time and space, as it says, “I am the first, and I am the last; besides me, there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6). Therefore Genesis 1:27 “God created man in his (singular) image” uses the singular to describe the creation of man. These verses reaffirm the unity of God and disprove the missionary claim.
The use of the plural in verse 26 teaches that God created man with both a physical body and a spiritual soul.
The first man was named Adam, derived from the Hebrew word “adamah” which means earth. Adam’s name indicates the physical aspect of mankind. As it says, “God formed man of dust from the ground (adamah) (Genesis 2:7). The second part of the verse, “and God breathed into his nostrils the soul (neshmas) of life” indicates the spiritual aspect of a person.
This idea is repeated by King Solomon when he says that upon the death of a person, "the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to G-d who gave it" Ecclesiastes 12:7.
The dual nature of mankind teaches that we have the potential and responsibility to sanctify the material world, with the unlimited power of our spiritual soul to direct our physical body to fulfill the Torah and commandments.
May this Shabbos launch us into a new cycle of joining the spiritual and physical in the service of the Almighty.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz