Examine Your Life
Question 52: How am I created b'tzelem Elokim (in the image of Hashem)?

   Rabbi Schwartz
The Nefesh HaChaim, the classic work of Rav Chaim Volozhiner answers this question in a very deep, thorough way. Here are a few ideas our group understood, when going through this important work.[1]

The term tzelem, “in the image of”, does not mean that we resemble Hashem in a full way. Certainly, if we cannot fathom the smallest aspect of Hashem’s greatness, we cannot understand that we are a copy of Him. Also, Hashem is fully spiritual, ruling us from beyond time and place, while we are, to a great degree, physical limited beings. We must understand then, that to be in the tzelem of Hashem is to resemble Him in one specific - albeit important - aspect. 

The second term, Elokim, is the holy name that indicates that Hashem is the Decision Maker and Executive Director of all that happens in the world. 

Put these two ideas together, and it comes out that to be created in the tzelem Elokim means that we share with Hashem, this quality of being able to decide all that happens in this world. But, is this really possible?

The Nefesh HaChaim says, yes. He explains that through our Torah study, prayers and good deeds, words and thoughts, we empower the heavens to bestow very great goodness upon us. Conversely, through our negative conduct, we weaken the heavens and they must withhold their blessing from us. This results in poverty, sickness, suffering and tragedy entering our world. The details of this system – how it all works - are multiple and complex. Nevertheless, this is our reality. 

Again, through our decisions, positive or negative, we bring about all that happens in our lives. With our initiative, we control the world, influencing Hashem Himself in the running of our lives. This is how we are created b’tzelem Elokim.

[1] A group at Ohr Somayach, Johannesburg, that spent over a year studying this work. For recordings of these session, see the audio classes on Nefesh HaChaim at

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