V'zot Habracha: From G-d to Man

By: Rabbi Jay Kelman |

When writing a book, a good author will introduce the major themes of the book in the opening chapters, develop these and other secondary themes throughout the story, and conclude with a recap highlighting the major themes of the book. 

The 31 verses that comprise the creation story tell us little about the origins of life on this planet. They do, however, tell us something much more important; all human beings contain within them the image of G-d. 

The comparison of man to G-d is a most revolutionary concept, one that would be deemed heretical, if not for the fact that it appears in biblical verse. That man is a reflection of the Divine sounds almost preposterous. Our Sages assert that the angels, for good reason, were opposed to the creation of man. How can sinful man whose "pre-eminence over beast amounts to nothing" (siddur), who all too often desecrates the name of G-d, be “a little less than G-d” (Tehillim 8:6)? But such is the message of man’s creation, man who has the ability to sanctify G-d’s name in all that we do. 

The story of the creation of humanity in the Divine image is immediately followed by "And G-d blessed them, and G-d said to them, be fruitful and multiply" (Breisheet 1:28). Man's greatest blessing is that he is created in G-d's image, and he, too, can be a creator of life, giving blessings to others. 

The Torah begins by demonstrating the awesomeness of G-d's power, fashioning a beautiful and unbelievably complex universe from tohu va vohu, utter nothingness. It should come as no surprise that the Torah ends by speaking of the greatness of man; "And no prophet arose in Israel like Moses, who knew G-d face to face" (Devarim 34:10). Through hard work and dedication, Moshe became the greatest of all leaders, the eternal teacher of the Jewish people. On the last day of his life, Moshe is referred to as "Ish HaElokim", the man of G-d, the same G-d who created Heaven and Earth.

While we are all created btzelem Elokim, Moshe merited being the Ish Elokim, as he, more than any other, fashioned that tzelem into a great being. As an Ish HaElokim, Moshe spent the last day of his life blessing the tribes of Israel. This is another example of the Torah's symmetry; the Torah begins with blessing and ends with blessing. 

The Torah's conclusion serves to teach us much more than just the greatness of Moshe; it is meant as a challenge to us. Every individual has the potential to be a Moshe Rabbeinu. While Moshe may have been the greatest of prophets, "it is appropriate for every person to [strive to] be as righteous as Moshe Rabbeinu" (Rambam, Laws of Teshuva 5:2). 

An elderly person seemingly lacking in charisma, a poor orator, a fugitive, and a foreigner who had no interest in the mission being thrust upon him—this was Moshe. Not the ideal leader for the emerging Jewish nation. The Tiferet Yisrael has an amazing piece in his commentary on the Mishnah (Kiddushin 4:14) where he lists a host of character traits that Moshe had to struggle with and conquer in order to become Moshe Rabbeinu. They include arrogance, excessive materialism, evil, and "all the faults of man". If a person with such handicaps could become the greatest of all prophets, we, too, can reach great heights. This is not just Jewish thought but also, as Maimonides states, Jewish law. 

After Moshe was criticized by Miriam "because of the Cushite woman whom he had married" (Bamidbar 12:1), G-d Himself comes to the defence of Moshe, declaring his uniqueness in almost identical terms to those in V’zot HaBracha. "With him do I speak mouth to mouth, in a vision not containing allegory, so that he sees a true picture of G-d" (Bamidbar 12:8). This special relationship seems predicated on the fact that just a few verses earlier, we are told "and the man Moshe was the most humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth" (Bamidbar 12:3). 

"Wherever we find the greatness of the Holy One Blessed be He, there we find His humility" (Megillah 31a). As those created in His image, we, too, can achieve greatness only if we combine it with humility. As we come into contact with the ultimate in greatness—G-d and His servant Moshe—may we be humbled, and reach great heights.