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Shabbat Parashat Noach 5775

Parashat Hashavua: In the Tzelem of Hashem Did He Make Man

Harav Yosef Carmel

At the end of the parasha, Hashem permitted Noach and his descendants to consume meat, which had previously been forbidden for humans. At that time, though, the Torah stressed what remained forbidden – murder – as the pasuk says “He who spills the blood of man, his blood shall be spilled, for man was made in the image of (b’tzelem) Hashem” (Bereishit 9:6). After Sukkot, when we were privileged to sit in the shade (tzel) of the sukka, we will try to understand more deeply what tzel is, which may improve our understanding of what tzelem Hashem is.

The most halachically important part of the sukka is its s’chach, which produces the shade. One of the important halachot is that the s’chach must produce more shade than it allows sunlight through. The Zohar (Emor 103:1) puts the purpose of this shade of the sukka in perspective as follows: “Whoever is of ‘the root and the trunk’ of Israel shall sit in the sukka under the shade of Hashem.”

In Tehillim we find that tzel has a double meaning: not only shade but salvation as well. “He who sits in the covert of the Supreme, in the shadow (b’tzel) of Hashem he lives … for He will save you (yatzilcha) …” (Tehillim 91:1-3). “Hashem will guard you, Hashem is your shade (tzilcha) on your right hand. During the day the sun will not hit you, nor will the moon at night” (ibid. 121:5-6).

If the spiritual is the ultimate protection and cover, we can understand better the Torah’s description of the creation of man. Hashem spoke of making man in His tzelem (image) (Bereishit 1:26-7), and then the Torah relates that He put man in charge of the animal kingdom. It is this tzelem which makes him distinct from other living creatures and gives him a closer connection to Hashem and a more significant life. Physical dangers have less import when stress is placed on spirituality and the soul rather than the body.

This also explains why the first woman is taken from the tzela of Adam (Bereishit 2:21-22). The partnership between man and woman emanates from the tzel – from a spiritual connection between them, and allows both of them to have the protection and closeness of the “shade of Hashem.” This is as Chazal teach, “If they merit [a proper spousal relationship], the Divine Presence will be with them.” One person who did not understand this properly was Lemech. One of his wives was Tzila, but he used her not to get close to Hashem but for her to always be in his shadow, i.e., for his physical pleasure (Rashi, Bereishit 4:19).

May we always make the most of our divine tzelem and spend as much time in His shade, quantitatively and qualitatively, as possible.

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