The Torah opens with the story of creation. In the first chapter of Genesis, we are taught that all people were created in the image of God. The text relates that God created fish “of every kind,” birds “of every kind,” cattle “of every kind,” creeping things “of every kind,” and wild animals “of every kind” and we learn later that everything that God creates has a purpose and a role.
But on the sixth day, when God creates human beings, this recurring phrase disappears. We never hear that God creates people “of every kind”; rather, God creates just one man and one woman and they are created B’Tzelem. Rabbi Shai Held makes the following observation: With this subtle omission, the Bible makes a stunningly simple point: There are no “kinds” of human beings. Each human from the first two on is created B’Tzelem Elohim, in God’s image. Even with all of the diversity that we see today in humanity and in our communities, in our cores, we have a uniting Source which makes us each equal in value and worth as part of our world. Because each of us has the same Source, each of us is special.
That each of is special is echoed in our tefillot, our prayers. Every morning, shortly after we rise, in Birkot Hashachar, the Morning Blessings (in Conservative and Reform liturgy), we recite, “Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, SheAsani B’Tzalmo. Blessed are You, Eternal our God, who has created me in God’s image.” We use some of our first waking moments to thank God for allowing us to awaken to a new day. We acknowledge and appreciate our uniqueness, our connection to others, and our diversity.
We celebrate the diversity of our voices and of our physical beings. When we gather and lift our voices in prayer, whether the voice is sweet and clear, off tune, loud or even silent, we model Jewish community: discrete voices united in saying the prayers and singing the songs. The range of voices reflects the range of individuals who make our Jewish community dynamic.
When we value each member of our community, each individual created in the image of God, we give thanks and renew the promise and hope of creation. Thank you, God, for creating me in God’s image. Thank you, God, for creating each of us in God’s image!
Since she was 8, Aviva Fellman knew she wanted to be a rabbi. An invitation from the new rabbi in her home shul to participate in services made her feel, even as a third grader, that her presence mattered and that she was valued. After completing her bachelor’s in Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, she earned a master’s in Talmud and Jewish Law from Machon Schechter in Jerusalem and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in NYC in 2012. Aviva participated in the The Matan Institute for Education Directors in 2014. Aviva, her husband Ari, and their two children live in Worcester, Massachusetts where Aviva serves as Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel. Contact Aviva at firstname.lastname@example.org