Science favors the collective, the species. We are analyzed by groups, the behavior of crowds, evolutionary patterns, economic cycles. Swept up in the net of the social and natural sciences, the “I” seems to disappear.
Here the American and Jewish traditions join hands. A human being is a singular creation in the Bible. The first thing we are told about creation is that each person is in the image of God. When the great American poet Walt Whitman writes that he celebrates himself and sings himself, the accent is not only of the new world, but the biblical heritage.
Abraham rose above his time; Ruth transcended her Midianite legacy and God rebuked King Saul for thinking too little of himself (I Samuel, 15). This is not egotism but an affirmation of potential. Do not be bewitched by predictions and statistics, by algorithms and game theory. The human animal is the one who, knowing what is predictable, can therefore do the opposite. Liberated by his Soviet captors, Natan Sharansky was given one direction — walk straight across the bridge to freedom. He walked zigzag. The free, indomitable will, the eternal “I” can defy tyranny and disprove number crunching. In our zigzag glory we are images of God.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at www.facebook.com/Rabbi Wolpe.