Question 52: How am I created b'tzelem
Elokim (in the image of Hashem)?
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.
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 -
second term, Elokim, is the holy name that indicates that Hashem is the
Decision Maker and Executive Director of all that happens in the
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
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.
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.
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 www.avtzvi.com
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