By Laura Seymour
Simchat Torah is my favorite holiday — I love that we celebrate Torah with dancing and singing. The celebrating is over but the best part is now — we begin again! It is like opening a favorite book again and again with everyone else doing the same all over the world. Reading the same book but learning something new each time is only possible with very special books and the Torah is the only one that has remained new for thousands of years — amazing! What will we find this year?
The opening parashah is about the creation of the world and questions are in every sentence and every word. When I teach young children, they take every word as fact and truth. The best conversations come over the concept of tzelem Elohim — the image of God. What does God look like? Children have no trouble with this but we adults do. What does it mean to be created in God’s image? I found a new book that I highly recommend: “Judaism’s 10 Best Ideas — A Brief Guide for Seekers” by Arthur Green. Here is a quote from the book:
“Abraham Joshua Heschel ask(ed)…Why is the Torah so concerned with idolatry? You might think that it is because God has no image, and any depiction of God is therefore a distortion. But Heschel read the commandment differently. ‘No,’ he said, ‘it is precisely because God has an image that idols are forbidden. You are the image of God. But the only way you can shape that image is by using the medium of your entire life. To take anything less than a full, living, breathing human being and try to create God’s image out of it — that diminishes the divine and is considered idolatry. You can’t make God’s image; you can be God’s image.”
I’m not quite sure how to explain that idea to kids (or adults) but Green continues: “We affirm the lesson of tzelem elohim, the truth that every human life is sacred. It calls us to boundless respect for each human life, a valuing of human difference and individuality and a commitment to fair and decent treatment for each person.” Daily I remind the children they are created in God’s image and that means that they are unique and important but they also must remember that everyone is also created in God’s image so every person is special and important and we must treat everyone with kindness. That is a message we should all carry with us at all times.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour, is director Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.