“Let Us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness…” (Beresheet 1:26)
Unlike other creations where He said, “Let the earth bring forth…,” when Hashem created Man, the crown of Creation, He, so to speak, invested great deliberation and wisdom into the task. Targum Yonatan adds that Hashem said to the angels, “Let Us,” inviting their participation and counsel. Moshe Rabbeinu did not want to write the word “Us” in the Torah, so as not to leave room for people to mistakenly believe that there is more than One Power in control of all that happens. Hashem demanded that Moshe follow His dictate and write the word in plural.
Rav Yosef Albo, in his work Sefer Ha’Ikarim, points out that all other creations — the inanimate, plant life, and all animals, fish and birds — were created complete. At the moment of formation, they were perfect. Nothing is required of them and so their existence is their dutiful service to Our Creator. That is why after each creation came into being, the passuk says, “And Hashem saw that it was good!” “Good” indicates perfection. Light, fish and plants all were good immediately.
Not so the human being. To the contrary, Man’s mere existence on the planet is not an accomplishment. In fact, at birth, humans are the most imperfect items in Creation. Weak physically, mentally undeveloped and spiritually burdened with desires and negative character traits, Man is far from perfect. His lifelong job is to grow from what he is to the perfect self he potentially can and should be. Just like circumcision is needed to perfect the body, hard work, discipline and study must be expended to perfect his image as an individual.
The Ktav V’hakabbalah says: “A human must purify himself and rise higher and higher to mirror his perfect spiritual self…. The passuk says (Vayikra 20:7): ‘You shall sanctify yourselves and be holy…,’ indicating to the degree one works to perfect oneself down below one will be assisted from Above!” The Yismach Moshe says that the plural form “Us” was used to create a partnership. Hashem told Man that He expects the individual to join in the process of building himself to reach the great potential he possesses.
Man is a work in progress, constantly being pulled down by spiritual gravity which inhibits one’s ability to soar to the heights to which one is striving. The Gemara says, “The evil inclination of a person renews and changes shape and renews itself every single day … and were it not for the assistance of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, one would not be able to overcome” (Kiddushin 30b). Only together with help from Above can one continue building daily to a perfect self.
When Hashem told Moshe to write the words “Let Us,” He was, in effect, hinting to all men in all generations: “Let Us make the man that exists within you…” “Everything is in the Hands of Heaven except for Fear of Heaven” (Berachot 33b) and “The day of death is preferred to the day of birth” (Kohelet 7:1).
We always begin our cycle of public Torah reading at the completion of the High Holy Day season. As we embark on a New Year of health and growth, may we all take advantage of a great opportunity. We all have a huge task of self-perfection in front of us and a daily battle with the evil inclination, but we must always remember that if we do our share, we are not alone! Our heavenly partner assures us success. Amen.