הרב שאול פלדמן
G-d said: Let us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness. They shall rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and over the animals, the whole earth, and every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. (Bereishit 1:26) "Man" is the pinnacle of creation, as the Ramban writes on this verse, "A separate command was issued for the formation of Man, due to his great stature." Similarly, the Radak writes, "Due to Man's stature and for his honor, he was created last, to show that all of the earth's creatures were created for him, and G-d set him ruler over them all."
The obvious question is, what is the nature of this "Man?" What are his attributes and traits? Furthermore, there is a well known question that the Rambam quotes from a certain philosopher in Moreh Nevuchim (1:2). Is it possible that before the sin Man was like any other animal, without intelligence and thought, and only after the sin his eyes were opened to know good and bad?
This question assumes that before the sin, man was animal-like. However, the Ramban writes (ibid.) that Man's nature is unlike that of animals. Although he has a likeness to earth/ material, since his body is formed from it, he also has a similarity with the upper beings, since man's spirit lives eternally. [Indeed, when a person dies, his soul departs, and is not erased.] This is the simple meaning, according to the Ramban, of the plural usage in the phrase, "In Our image, after Our likeness," indicating a blending of spiritual and physical.
Even according to this interpretation of the Ramban, though, we can still say that Man was created as a "super robot," who is able to move, talk and walk around, but which is, in the end, pre-programmed (i.e., lacking free will). We can then reformulate the philosopher's question more strongly. Was this the purpose of Man, to be a robot, and only after the sin it rose against its Creator, and some dangerous super-being was formed who is capable of carrying out certain independent actions? By examining the verses that precede the sin, we will find that it is not so.
1. "G-d blessed them and G-d said to them: ... Fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every living thing that moves on the earth." (1:28) Granting Man reign indicates an ability to develop and to be creative. Indeed, the Ramban explains the phrase "and subdue it" as follows: "He gave them the strength and rule of the land to do AS THEY WISH ... with the animals, the creeping creatures and the crawling insects; to build and to uproot that which is planted; to extract copper from its hills, etc." If so, Man had the creative ability to develop the world even before the sin.
2. "Hashem G-d commanded the man saying, `Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.'" (2:16) The gemara (Sanhedrin 56b) derives from this verse the seven Noachide mitzvot, the first of which is "dinim -- laws." The Rambam (Hil. Melachim 9:14) explains that this is a mitzvah to establish judges to rule regarding the other six commandments. The Ramban (Bereishit 34:13) says that the mitzvah refers to the laws of torts, punishments and transactions, which apply to non-Jews, as well. If so, and in light of the purpose of Creation, it is clear that even before the sin, Man was on a high intellectual level and capable of establishing judicial systems.
3. "Man assigned names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to every beast of the field." (2:20) The names were not assigned arbitrarily, but rather, as the Ramban explains:
G-d brought all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the sky before Man, and he ascertained their nature ... Even if we were to believe that names were by convention, not intrinsic, we can say that "assigning names" is the differentiation of the species -- that they passed before him, male and female, and he examined their nature. This is certainly an independent, intellectual act.
Similarly, the Sforno explains the phrase, "In our image -- that he is an eternal and intelligent being. In this way G-d provided an opening to his Torah, to acquire knowledge of abstract beings ..." In other words, already from the beginning of his creation, Man was granted Divine wisdom and human intellect, and this is the reason for his eternity.
Based on the aforementioned, the philosopher's question is not at all difficult. However, we still have to clarify the difference between the creative, intelligent Man before the sin, and Man after the sin. The Rambam discusses this in his answer to the question, and his explanation is relevant to us, as well.
The Rambam explains that before the sin, Man existed with concepts of truth and falsehood, which are objective, eternal concepts. They are concepts whose foundations rest on a clear and sharp Divine aspect. After the sin, Man began to live with concepts of good and bad -- as the verse attests to, "the tree of knowledge of Good and Bad" (2:9) -- which are subjective, human concepts, and as such, are subject to change. Therefore, immediately after the sin we read, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they REALIZED that they were naked." (3:7) It does not say that they "saw," but that they "realized." What they saw objectively didn't change, it remained the same. However, here Man had already introduced his own interpretation into that sight, and in his MIND the matter was embarrassing.
This is the downfall that occurred after the sin. When Man's mind is not free from the transient ideas that surround him, or from the world's materialistic culture, even his attempts to be spiritual remain something external, and far from the Divine truth. Not for nothing was the wonderful harmony of union which appears in the creation of woman -- "a helper corresponding to him" (2:18); "they shall become one flesh" (2:24) -- blemished in the curse, and yielded to a description of, "He shall rule over you." (3:16)
This change is reflected in the naming of the woman. At first it says, "This shall be called `Isha' (woman)" (2:23), but after the sin the name Chava appears, "The man called his wife Chava, because she had become the mother of all the living." (3:20) (The simple explanation is that the first name is general, for all women, whereas the second name is specific. Nonetheless, the location of the specific naming in the context of Man's curse shows a relevance to the sin.) The Netziv explains, based on the Rosh (Brachot 6:8), that the phrase "all the living" alludes to things that are pleasures, not necessities. In line with our approach, we can explain that after the sin, man still sees the same woman, just with a different perspective. Now, she is already the source of all pleasures of mankind, and, as the Netziv attests to, usually that pleasure turns into something harmful and damaging to man.
This idea also explains the entire process of the moral decline of mankind which appears in our parsha -- jealousy, murder, adultery, abuse of authority -- until "Hashem reconsidered having made Man on earth, and He had heartfelt sadness." (6:6-7)
What is the solution?
"But Noach found grace in the eyes of Hashem." (6:8) The Ramban explains, "That all his actions before Him were pleasing ... because he was a straightforward tzaddik." Noach did not have a subjective outlook. He returned to service of G-d through truth; he served with simplicity.
We now understand why the gemara (Avoda Zara 25a) calls Sefer Bereishit "the book of the just." As R. Yochanan explains, this is the book of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, who were just, as it says, "The innocence of the just will guide them." (Mishlei 11:3) The Patriarchs come to rectify the original sin, which is accomplished by a return to the ideal state of the purpose of Man -- "true" service of G-d, without self-interests and without games, but in a straightforward manner. This is the great rectification for the world whose continued existence is G-d's desire.
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