While much of the story of creation in this week’s parsha is shrouded in mystery, one particular statement by G-d during the creation story stands out for its ambiguity.
Towards the end of the story, following the creation of the animals on day six, G-d proclaims, “na’ase adam b’tzalmeinu kidmuseinu”, “let us make man in our image, in our likeness”. A glaring theological question arises- what does G-d mean when He says “let us make”? One of the fundamental tenets of Judaism is the belief in only one Creator. What, then, does G-d mean here? To whom is He speaking? And, whatever the explanation, why is the Torah written in such an ambiguous way as to potentially cause misinterpretation and misreading of the text at such a crucial moment?
Rashi immediately notes the obvious difficulty, and stresses that G-d certainly created man Himself, without help from any other being. However, he explains, the Torah wants to teach us a lesson in humility- and therefore it portrays G-d as receiving permission from the heavenly angels before creating Man. Rashi adds that although the wording of the passuk itself could potentially lead to apikorsus- to people believing in the existence of more than one G-d- because of the importance of the lesson of humility, the text was written in a vague way.
Alternatively, the Ramban suggests that Hashem was talking to the earth itself- as mankind, in contrast to all the other creations of the world, is created from both the dust of the earth and the breath of G-d. The pull between the physical side and spiritual side of man will come to define the daily struggle of all of mankind- and therefore the Torah wanted to stress that this innate dichotomy existed already from the moment of man’s creation.
Perhaps, however, we can offer an alternative suggestion, based on a well-known Gemara in Kiddushin 30b. The gemara states that there are three partners in the creation of man- one’s father, mother, and G-d himself- the parents accounting for the physical creation of the child, while G-d provides his spiritual existence. The Gemara then suggests a number of practical halachot related to this unique partnership- most importantly, the connection between honoring one’s parents and honoring G-d Himself.
Based on this gemara, perhaps we can suggest that when G-d declares “let us make man”, He is in essence speaking to all of mankind. When He creates Adam HaRishon, G-d does much more than simply produce the first human being- He launches the creation and existence of mankind for all future generations. And while the initial making of Adam haRishon was done solely by G-d Himself, the formation and creation of all future humans will inherently require a partnership with mankind. G-d therefore turns to mankind and declares “let us make man”, in recognition of this crucial and powerful partnership.
At first glance, this Torah text and Gemara in Kiddushin are simply relaying a practical point- that both parents and G-d are technically partners in the creation of every child. However, from a parenting perspective, this message has tremendous significance and meaning- so important, it seems, that G-d was willing to risk possible misunderstanding and misinterpretation in the text in order it to relay to us.
If Hashem partners with us in creating our children, then He is also there to partner with us in raising them as well. While we are their parents here on earth, G-d is their parent in heaven- who cares for them deeply and profoundly, as we do. Therefore, He does not simply enable us to bring life into this world- He remains with us every step of the way in the journey of parenthood. As we work our way through the opportunities, challenges, and adventures that come with being a parent, we should realize that Hashem is right there next to us, holding our hands.
Understanding this partnership with G-d can be incredibly meaningful and comforting. During moments of particular challenge and despair, we always have whom to turn to for support- we should remember that we are never alone, there is always more we can do. This understanding can also be encouraging – as we are partnering with the best there is.
A recognition of this partnership is important in another way as well. Because this affiliation teaches us that G-d has not only chosen to partner with us, He has also chosen us to partner with Him. He has given us the privilege to take part in creating, and raising, His precious children- and charged us with the responsibility to be His physical representative in this world, and in the lives of His children. We must be aware of this incredible opportunity- of the incredible gift that G-d has given us. If He has chosen us to be a parent, it means that He believes in us, and our ability to be great parents.
And we must recognize that this gift also comes with tremendous responsibility. We must put in the time and effort to be the best parents that we can- and to raise our kids towards a life of happiness, meaning, and continued avodat Hashem. Our success is, as it were, G-d’s success as well
As G-d prepares to create the first man and launch the journey of mankind across history, He proclaims “let us make man”- speaking to all parents throughout the ages. He turns to us and asks us to partner with Him in the creation of future generations. This partnership is extremely comforting, as we realize that Hashem is with us every step of the way. At the same time, it also demands of us to recognize the responsibility given to us, as G-d has entrusted us with His most precious gems- His children.