Based on Shiurim of Rav Dovid Siegel
A Middos Workshop: Ahavas Yisroel -- the Oneness of the
Honoring Hashem by Honoring the Human -- Part I
Any time is the perfect time to work on improving our
interpersonal relationships. In the first part of our
discussion of this topic, we discussed the oneness of the
Jewish people. Now we will examine how we can practically
express this through increasing our feelings of respect for
our fellow Jew.
Respecting Others and Respecting Hashem
The fourth chapter in Pirkei Ovos tells us, "Eizehu
mechubod, hamechabeid es habriyos, sh'ne'mar ki michabdai
echabeid. Who is the honorable one? He who gives people
honor, as it states, `Those who honor Me, I will honor.' " If
we examine this statement, we will notice an apparent
inconsistency. The mishna says that whoever honors
people will be honored, but the proof that is brought for
this is that Hashem honors those who honor Him. What is the
HaRav Chaim of Volozhin answers that the Jewish people have a
unique opportunity to manifest Hashem's glory. Since they
were created betzelem Elokim -- in Hashem's image --
they possess all the necessary faculties to reveal Hashem's
What does this mean -- to be created in Hashem's image?
Hashem is beyond shape and form and has no limiting
dimensions. The apparent reference here is to the image we
have of Hashem. Although Hashem has no physical form, we view
Hashem though His known attributes -- the way He relates to
us and the world. Through this, we form in our mind our image
Rav Chaim continues that all Jewish people were created with
the potential of reflecting Hashem's image -- His known
attributes. When we emulate Hashem's conduct, we expose an
aspect of ourselves that reflects Hashem.
For example, when my friend helps me, that kind gesture
introduces me to a greater degree of Hashem's goodness, for
it is He Who planted that goodness in my friend's heart. This
ultimately increases my respect for Hashem because, when I
recognize Hashem's qualities reflected in others, I increase
my respect for Him.
HaRav Chaim explains that, in essence, when I respect others
out of appreciation of their qualities, I am honoring their
reflection of Hashem. In addition to recognizing Hashem's
goodness manifested through people's actions, I am showing
honor to Him.
Hillel Hanossi compared this to one who shows respect to a
picture of the king. In reality, he is not honoring a
portrait, but the reflection of the real king who is
represented by the picture. Hashem therefore says, "Since you
have honored Me, I will reciprocate by honoring you, as it
says, `Ki mechabdai echabeid.'"
Hashem's Appreciation of Our Divine Image
The Jewish people are the most deserving of reflecting
Hashem's honor. As Chazal put it, "Chavivin Yisroel
shenivre'u betzelem Elokim, Beloved is Israel who were
created in Hashem's image." How far does this belovedness
extend? We can see its extent from Hashem's concern for the
dignity of the wicked. After a sinner was stoned for an
unforgivable offense and he was hanged on a tree, the Torah
warns us not to leave him hanging overnight. What makes this
criminal worthy of such respect?
To clarify this point, Rashi quotes Chazal's analogy of
twins, one who was a king and the other a thief. When the
thief was caught and sentenced to hanging, people began
saying that the king was hanging. Rashi continues that the
Jewish people are created in Hashem's image and are
identified as His children.
What does Rashi mean? Obviously, one who sees a Jew hanging
on a tree will not mistake him for Hashem, and one would not
actually believe that the king has been hanged. So how are we
to understand this analogy?
Before answering this question, let us focus on the purpose
of creation. We are all familiar with the posuk from
Yeshayohu (43:7): "Kol hanikro beshmi velichvodi borosiv
yetzartiv af asisiv. Everything is called in My Name, I
created it, formed it and even made it for My honor." In
other words, the entire creation is in order to bring honor
Now, we know that Hashem lacks no honor. Trillions of
mal'ochim sing His praise from morning to night, and
trillions more sing His praise from evening to morning. What
dimension of praise is lacking that the human being can
Before making man, Hashem consulted the mal'ochim and
asked whether He should create man. They replied in the
negative, explaining that Hashem would receive little honor
from man. Hashem asked the mal'ochim if they could
prove the penetrating power of His glory, but they could not.
With their all-encompassing awareness of Hashem, they could
not come from a place of challenge to prove His glory.
Hashem explained that the human being He was soon to create
would be capable of proving Hashem's glory though his
distance from Hashem. This distance would allow for
challenge, and the human success in meeting this challenge
would be an incredible tribute to Hashem's glory. Even the
low earthly being divorced from the upper spiritual spheres
could reveal Hashem's glory in a unique form.
Hashem proved His point and displayed to the mal'ochim
Avrohom Ovinu's unlimited devotion. When the
mal'ochim understood that the lowness of the human
being produces his greatness, they approved of Hashem's plan
to create man.
Now, let us return to our analogy. We know that twins share
the same qualities. When one sees the king's brother hanging
on a tree, it reminds him of the king. Alas, this criminal
had the potential to rise to royalty. And conversely, the
king has the potential to sink to a convict.
Similarly, one who sees a Jewish criminal hanging on a tree
sees the image of Hashem hanging there. He sees what should
have been a reflection of Hashem's perfect attributes. Even
this unforgivable sinner had the potential of royalty and
could have manifested Hashem's glory. Beneath that tough and
callous coating was a potential for a magnificent reflection
of Hashem. Yet, these potential attributes were buried and
silenced by the criminal. One should view this criminal
through the potential glory he could have reflected. Hashem
therefore admonishes us to respect that potential and
commands us to show reverence to His image.
End of Part I about Honoring Hashem by Honoring the
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