Yom Sheini, 18 Av 5779
Monday, 19 August 2019
Parashat Bereishit 2011

Parashat Bereishit by Rabbi Anna Gerrard
21 October 2011


Clearing God's To Do List:

And God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness.  They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth."  And God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.  God blessed them and God said to them, "Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth." (Genesis 1:26-28)

It seems that the Book of Genesis is claiming human supremacy over all of creation.  The six days of creation all lead to this moment.  The universe is literally created for us; for this moment when we will come into being as the pinnacle and the purpose of creation.  We are elevated so high above the creation that we are seen as "little less than divine" (Psalms 8:6).

In the Mishnah, this idea is extended further to suggest that it is God's absolute love for us that leads to us being singled out in this way.  "Beloved are humans for they were created in the image of God.  Still greater was God's love in that we were given the knowledge of having been so created."  (Pirke Avot 87)

Yet to read from this text a message of superiority and a license for domination is to do a great disservice to an incredible invitation that offers us the gift of divine partnership.  "The fact is, however, that the Tanakh presents humanity not as the owner of nature but as its steward, strictly accountable to its true Owner."  (Jewish Study Bible, p.14)

According to the Documentary Hypothesis, this section of Genesis originates from the Priestly tradition.  This Priestly tradition depicts Adam as created in partnership with God because that is how the Priests saw their own role in the world.  The Priestly role in the Temple cult was to control nature and intervene with God through rituals that placed them halfway between heaven and earth.

Created in the image of God, humankind is required to take responsibility for God's creation.  Like a farmer who plows many acres and sows many crops but has not the time to oversee them all personally; God finishes creating the entire universe and then realises that running it is a mammouth task, too big for one Ultimate and Eternal Deity.  Just as the farmer places a scarecrow, in human image, in his field to help scare away the birds when he himself cannot be there; so God places us on the earth to help out with the unending job of perfecting the world.

In his book God's To Do List, Dr Ron Wolfson asks what we can do to help with the divine task of improving upon creation; what does it mean to live and act in the image of God; how can we do our bit to tick a few more things from God's To Do List?

I currently have 71 tasks in my iPhone To Do List App.  I know that if had millions times this number, I would want all the help I could get.  So check out Dr Wolfson's book or think about what needs doing in the worl; and add them to your own To Do List today so that tomorrow you can live in the image of God.