God is One, Not Two
During the long years of exile, the Jewish people lost the Land of Israel, the Temple, the priesthood, the Davidic kingship, and sacrifices. Despite these losses, we survived because we never lost the Torah with its moral, legal, and spiritual teachings.
The word Torah means more than just “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 Bereishis (Genesis 1:1–6:8), 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).
On a college campus, a missionary confronted me and claimed the plural words “us” and “our” prove that a “plural” God created man. I refuted his Christian claim and demonstrated that the Torah affirms the oneness and absolute unity of God with verses like, “there is nothing else besides God” (Deuteronomy 4:35) and, “I am the first, and I am the last; besides me, there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).
These verses teach that God is not a plurality because God’s essence transcends the limitations of time and space. Therefore, God does not have divisions or parts which can only exist within the framework of created time and space. Genesis 1:27 also reaffirms the oneness of God during the creation of man by stating in the singular that “God created man in His (singular) image.”
So why did the Torah use the plural “us” and “our” in Genesis 1:26? Our sages explain that the Torah is highlighting that God created man with a dual nature, 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 man’s physical aspect as it says, “God formed man of dust from the ground (adamah) (Genesis 2:7). The second part of this verse, “and God breathed into his nostrils the soul (nishmas) of life” indicates man’s spiritual dimension.
This dual makeup of man is reiterated 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 transcendent power of our spiritual soul by directing our physical body to fulfill the Torah and commandments.
May this Shabbos empower us to proclaim the truth of the Torah and reaffirm the words of King Solomon “there is one and not two - יש אחד ואין שני ” (Ecclesiastes 4:8).
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz