In the Image of Man

Take a second and think about what is it that makes man unique? What does he possess that no other creature possesses? One answer that comes readily to mind is man's mind itself.

Man's intellectual achievements are unique in the animal world. Chidushei Torah, math, science, art, literature, medicine, and more – each of these alone and all of them together bear witness to the intellectual capabilities of man.

Indeed, so great is man's intellectual capabilities that the Torah itself compares it with the Mind of G-d Himself. Man was created in the Image of G-d; meaning (to many commentators) that man's intellect echoes and reflects (to some extent) G-d's intellect.

And yet, as impressive as man's brain is, on its own it is rather limited. A brain in a vat can accomplish nothing. It can't even gather the information it needs to contemplate the world around it. No eyes, no ears – no knowledge.

But it's not just eyes and ears that the brain needs. It turns out (as the video above demonstrates), that in order for man to take full advantage of his intellectual capabilities, he needs a very particular type of body . One that can (among other things) create and skillfully use tools. Without this basic capability there is no writing and (as such) no reading; no telescopes and (as such) no modern physics.

No, a big brain is simply not enough. In order for man to intellectually shine, he requires a 'smart' body which is able to take advantage of his intellectual capabilities. And it just so happens that that is the type of body that man has, a unique physical form that perfectly complements mans intellectual capabilities.

In other words, man is doubly unique – both intellectual and physically.

And it may very well be that the Chumash itself refers to this fact. Right before the Torah tells us that man was created in the image of G-d, it states that man was created in 'his image'. The question is, who does 'his' refer to? Is it His image (i.e., G-d's) or some other image?

Rashi states that the 'image' being referred to here is man's unique physical form. It is (in the language of Rashi) the form that was made just for man (בדפוס העשוי לו). In other words, G-d created man in his (i.e., man's) image (referring to man's physical body), in the image of G-d He created him (referring to man's mind).

There is one more aspect to this story, though, that needs to be noted. This unique physical-intellectual combination gives man another special capability; namely, the ability to gain control of and (to a certain extent) transcend the physical limitations of the physical world in which man lives.

And once again we note that the Chumash itself notes this fact. It directly connects the nature of man's creation with his ability to rule over the fish of the seas, the birds of the heavens and the rest of the physical world:

And God said, let us make man with our image, as our likeness – and he shall rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the domesticated animals, all the earth and every creatures that crawls upon the earth.
And God created man in his image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
And God blessed them and God said to them: be fruitful and multiply; inhabit the earth, subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the heaves, and the wild animals that tread upon the earth.

And it here that we note a great congruence between what the Torah tells us and what we observe in the natural world. If you want to create a creature that can transcend his physical surroundings and gain (some level of) mastery over the natural world then you need a creature just like man; one whose physical form is built to take full advantage of his intellectual capabilities. It is this combination that provides for one aspect of what makes man truly unique and it is this aspect that the Torah notes in the first chapter of Bereishis (aka Genesis).

Join The Conversation!

Share your thoughts, comments, & ideas below.