Of course nobody among the Jews is assessing his/her actions in terms of acting “in the image of God” – those two types of Jews could be identified by their interpretations of Jewish ethics-related Torah’s concepts.
Jews who are acting “in the image of God” are those who are using their own Torah-guidance intuition in deciding what is ethically Right or Wrong in their individual life situations. The individual Torah-guidance intuition is inherited genetically, although Jewish spiritual genes have not been discovered yet, and enhanced by family behavior patterns. The reason why Jewish genetic inheritance is mostly Torah-guided is that it was in “formation” by Torah-guided ethics for over three millenniums (or, for the strictly religious Jews, given by God at the birth). The Jews like all other peoples don’t learn from formal religious education the norms of ethics; the formal education provides a historic ethical background and analysis of Jewish authoritative sources for the purpose of having the knowledge of why it is so.
Jews who are not acting “in the image of God” are those who are persuaded by their rabbis or various authoritative sources that a common Jew cannot obtain on his/her own, through individual intuition the Torah guidance since the Torah is created by God not as a guidance for everybody but rather as a guidance for prophets, sages and authoritative rabbis who are interpreting the Torah for the ordinary Jews. Because Judaism never had and doesn’t have one agreed upon set of Torah’s interpretations, the Jews who are obeying the rabbis and authoritative sources are acting not “in the image of God” but rather “in the image of their rabbi or in the image of some authoritative source”. Indeed, the rabbis and authoritative sources should teach an individual how to look for Torah-guided individual ethical solutions – not to demand obeying the solutions of the past.
I have found Rabbi Sacks’s summation of Jewish Torah-guided ethical rules presented in http://www.rabbisacks.org/worlds-most-enduring-moral-voice/
as a perfect description of the mindset of the Jews who are acting “in the image of God”. Now I am going to use this summation to illuminate the difference between those two are acting “in the image of God” and who are not.
Rabbi Sacks: “There is a supreme emphasis on the dignity of the individual: we are each in the image and likeness of God. A single life is like a universe. Belief in the one God, singular and alone, has momentous implications for our respect for the human individual, singular and alone. We are free and responsible moral agents, charged with choosing between good and bad, and we can be held to account for our deeds”.
However some Jewish individuals are scared of being “free and responsible moral agents, charged with choosing between good and bad”, and of “being held to account for our deeds”, of being forced to make their own Torah-guided decisions. They are convinced by their rabbis that no one of ordinary Jews can understand the true meaning of the Torah; the Torah is understood only by those who have life-long rabbinical education; a decree of those rabbinical authorities on the meaning of anything in the Torah is final and cannot be challenged by ordinary people. And that is a spiritual trait of those who are not acting “in the image of God”.
Rabbi Sacks: “At the heart of Jewish ethics is the concept of covenant, a mutually binding pledge or promise between God and human beings. Judaism embodies a dual ethic. There is the covenant made with Noah and through him all humanity, and the covenant accepted by the Israelites at Mount Sinai and renewed periodically since. Life is sacred. Love is at the center of the moral life. Forgiveness is a central feature of Jewish ethics”.
However some Jewish individuals are scared to be involved in building a better world for everybody. Their rabbis convinced them that a God’s better world is in the spiritual space of their homes, synagogues and communities – the outer world is filled with Jewish enemies and should be spiritually avoided; that the Jewish ethical traits should be applied only to the Jews themselves since, their rabbis are telling them, the Torah is given by God to the Jews exclusively. And that is a spiritual trait of those who are not acting “in the image of God”.
Rabbi Sacks: “Much of Jewish ethics exists in the form of rules and commands: halakhah (Jewish law). But there are other features of the moral life that cannot be prescribed by rules. There is “the right and the good,” emphasized by Ramban. There is an ethic of virtue, set out by Maimonides in Hilkhot Deot. There is the concept of lifnim mishurat ha-din, acting within or beyond the limits of the law. There is middat hassidut, “saintly conduct,” not required of everyone. There is the general imperative of “walking in God’s ways”.
However some Jewish individuals are scared of the very thought of making decisions outside of the halakhic-laws realm. Those Jews are betraying the Free Choice given to them by God – given to everybody, not only to the rabbis. And that is a spiritual trait of those who are not acting “in the image of God”.
Rabbi Sacks: “There is more than one ethical voice in Judaism and this is what gives it its richness and complexity. There is the voice of the priest, summoning us to holiness and purity. There is the voice of the prophet calling us to righteousness, justice, loving-kindness and compassion. And there is the voice of wisdom, reminding us of the lessons of experience and the importance of deliberative judgment”.
However some Jewish individuals are scared of the very thought of deliberating and not obeying something given to them “from the above”. They consider the decisions made outside the halakhic-laws’ realm as acts of disobedience and they even hate deliberating on this topic. And that is a spiritual trait of those who are not acting “in the image of God”.
Rabbi Sacks: “Judaism remembers what philosophy sometimes forgets, that morality is not just a matter of knowledge but also of action”.
However some Jewish individuals believe that the rituals are the actions – they have to pray and follow all prescribed rituals, and that is enough to follow the Torah guidance. And that is a spiritual trait of those who are not acting “in the image of God”.