Parashat Bereshit, the “beginning”, is about the story of the creation of the world by the hands of God. The Torah says that on the sixth day of the creation, the first man was created: “And God created man from the dust of the ground, and insufflated into him the breath of life, and man became a living being”. (Genesis 2:7)
According to the meaning that emerges from this verse, man is called ‘Adam’ because he was created from the earth, but this explanation is puzzling: weren’t all the animals also created from the earth, why then is man alone named after him? In order to answer this question, we see another description from the parasha in which man is described as being created in the image of God: “And G-d created man in his image, in the image of G-d created him”. (Genesis 1:27)
This sublime description teaches us that man is not different from the rest of creation by his physical structure or intelligence only. There is a much more fundamental difference. While the rest of creation was created by the ‘hands’ of God, man was created in God’s image, that is: Man, in his essence, is a divine being. There is no doubt that it is this consciousness that sanctifies human life and creates a world of values, morality, and mutual respect.
On the other hand, this exalted consciousness, that man is created in the image of God, may also make man feel as if he does not have to exert himself in order to achieve God’s perfection, because that it exists in him from the beginning. As if the meaning of his existence is inherent in him from the beginning of his life, and there is no goal to which he must strive.
Rabbi Yehuda Liwa – the ‘Maharal’, was living in Prague in the 16th century, known worldwide because the ‘Golem’ he created, and his thought inspires hundreds of years after his death.
The ‘Maharal’ claims that the meaning of man’s existence is fundamentally different from the animals, as well as that of the angels, since those like these do not strive towards any goal, but live out of existential perfection, each of them in their own way: the angels in their exalted existence, and the animals by their simple existence that does not depend on achieving a goal.
It is different from the purpose of the human being that a divine core is inherent in him, but he must work and work towards the realization of this core before it comes to light. A person who does not strive towards the realization of the divine light in him, his existence is empty of purpose.
On the other hand, the person striving towards the realization of the divine light in him, reveals the sublime layer of his existence: being created in the image of God. Using this idea, the ‘Maharal’ explains why, of all creatures, only Adam is named after the earth -Adama. The soil is endowed with a special feature: it is empty of content, but in it lies the power of growth and flowering; A person can sow a single seed in it, which will later turn into a flower, a vegetable or a fruit tree.
Man reflects this wonderful property of the earth: when he does not strive towards the fulfillment of the divine light in him, he is emptied of meaning; But it is in his power to grow the divine nucleus that lies within him and bring it out into the light. Due to this feature that human being shares with the earth, he is named after her. ADAM -ADAMA.
This special meaning for our existence as human beings, can accompany us in our common journey towards this lofty goal: to grow, raise and water the divine spark that lies within us, and bring it out into the light.
Rabbi Refael Cohen