Between the demands of perfection on social media and society’s unbridled expectations on men and women, protecting our self-worth has become a challenging feat. When jobs are lost in economic downturns, popularity vanishes in new settings, and looks fade with the hands of time, who can keep a hold on that which gives us our worth? It’s the relationship between our identities and the changes of reality that mistakenly conditions our self-worth to depend on that which doesn’t matter. However, when we return to Parshat Bereishis, the beginning of our very reality, we find our true image of self-worth, one that’s unconditional and undying.
After the Torah recounts the stages of creation, it continues with Hashem creating mankind, but one specific pasuk is relevant for this discussion: “And Elokim created man in His image, in the image of Elokim He created him; male and female He created them” (Bereishis 1:27).
The various names of Hashem shift our focus to a particular “truth” about Him, some signifying that He is timeless and endless, while others identify Him as all-loving and all-forgiving. The name “Elokim,” which is noticeably used throughout Parshat Bereishis, highlights Hashem as the Owner of All Powers in the world, the ones we perceive like the forces of nature and physics, and those we cannot like the underpinning of our very reality (Tur Orach Chayim 5:1).
Rav Chaim of Volozhin writes on the name Elokim: “[Hashem] is the Owner of All Powers, for He is the Soul, Life, and Ultimate Root of all powers, as is stated, ‘and You give them all life’ (Nechemyah 9:6), every single moment, and therefore He is called the Soul of all souls” (Nefesh HaChayim 3:10). This profound truth shows us that, essentially, we are each living a God-powered life, as He is the Electricity, so to speak, that charges every moment of our life.
In a powerful analogy, Rabbi David Aaron explains that we can think of ourselves as different “appliances,” and just like a lamp, toaster, or air conditioner are lifeless in the absence of electricity, so is our relationship with Hashem. But we are never disconnected from Hashem.
In the pasuk, what does it really mean that we were created in the image of the Owner of All Powers, the Soul of our souls, the One who sustains reality in every moment? Rav Chaim spends an extensive time answering this question, but one point he makes in Nefesh HaChayim captures a crucial lesson: “Every Jew must not say in his heart, God forbid, ‘For what am I? And what impact do my lowly powers have on the world?’” (1:4).
To be created in the image of Elokim is to live a life in which you matter, a life in which you have a purpose, and a select assortment of experiences and skills to carry out that purpose. Our actions are meaningful, our lives purposeful, and our decisions important. There is nothing we think, say, or do that is worthless. Hashem is the Soul of our souls, what could be a greater source of self-worth than that?
Parshat Bereishis reminds us to love, think, and respect ourselves — and everyone else in the world — in the image of Hashem. The circumstances of our lives cannot affect our self-worth because we are eternally connected to the Soul of all souls, the Source of all reality. In fact, every moment of our life is a direct experience of His love, attention, and care. He guides us through every high and low, celebrating, crying, and laughing with us. When we live with the reality of a God-powered life, our self-worth will always be unconditional.