Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We Are Humans

Nothing like starting off the day with an existential crisis! Good thing I'm a stone's throw from the Philosophy department; I might need to shake my head out over there.
"For if a man strikes many coins from one die, they all resemble one another; in fact, they are all exactly alike. But though the King of kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, fashioned every man from the die of the first man, not a single one of them is exactly like his fellow. Hence, each and every person should say, "The world was created for my sake." [54]
Does the idea that each person was made in a unique way, yet somehow also each cast from G!d's original (singular?) mold, concur with the notion that humans were made in G!d's image? How does using the same mold - unlike striking coins from one die - result in unique beings, each of us different?

As unique individuals, we are charged with great burden: if we destroy our world, no one will help us clean it up [54]; if we kill another, it is as if we killed all of humanity (and if we save another it is like we saved all of humanity) [58]. We are the acme of creation [57]! We have big shoes to fill.

Looking at the second half of today's section, the aggados remind us that perhaps humans were not originally created as we now stand. We were originally created as an intersex being [60]. Like animals, we had tails, but G!d later removed them [61]. Our original ancestors, Adam and Eve, were created in their grown forms (as youth or young adults) [62], but subsequent generations had to be born. Going back to the first section that my chevrusah, chillul Who?, and I read last week, I think these developments that G!d made for us easily coincide with the notion of evolution as opposed to clear creationism.

We were each created as individuals, in the image of G!d, unique and with the ability to change and grow. Looking to yesterday's readings, no wonder G!d chastised the angels for thinking humans would be the same, with set characteristics.


David A.M. Wilensky said...

Perhaps the die isn't the best metaphor for us. Let's put it in modern terms.

God has established a self-perpetuating reproductive system. Through genetics and sex, God has insured that we will continue to use this system to propagate ourselves.

When we establish a system for creating, a factory, for example, we must set an entirely new set of steps and assembly line stations for each type of object we produce in that factory. Each object churned out is identical.

But, when God establishes such a system, God has the finesse to establish a system that produces similar, but uniquely different things.

BZ said...

I think the oft-quoted aggadah 54 is even more powerful in its original context. It comes from a mishnah in Masechet Sanhedrin, which outlines the instructions given to witnesses in capital trials. The witnesses are warned not to testify based on hearsay, circumstantial evidence, etc., because their testimony could result in someone being executed, and one who destroys a single life destroys a world, etc. etc.

So it's telling us that we have to see all humans as created in God's image and infinitely valuable, even if (as far as we know) they are murderers (or other serious criminals).