Over the past year, I preached a sermon series on the Torah’s seven days of creation at First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, NY. In this series I lifted up the images of natural beauty and ecological abundance in this passionate text – a text that is too often claimed by (and ceded to) hardline creationists and climate change deniers. Far from the conservative politics that such voices promote, I see the Genesis text as a call for human humility and environmental stewardship. It highlights the gorgeous and fragile gift we have been given in our planet earth, celebrates its diversity, and casts humans as merely one thread in its living web. My interpretations in this series are partly my own midrash and partly the insights of traditional commentators. The following article is adapted from a sermon I delivered on the creation of humans. This is part 2 of the article on the sixth day of creation, begun in the fall, 2016 issue of Tikkun.
Reading the Genesis seven days of creation from a human perspective, the Friday afternoon is really where the action is. This is when God makes the first earthling. The Hebrew word for it is adam, which comes from the word adamah, meaning “earth.” God makes an earth creature. And the way it’s described is downright strange: “Then God said, ‘Let us make an earthling in our image, according to our likeness.’” Us?! To whom is God referring? And if there’s more than one, why is it “image” and “likeness” instead of “images” and “likenesses?” There has been something suspiciously plural-ish about this God from the start. The Hebrew name for God used throughout this story is Elohim. “Im” is a plural ending, analogous to adding an –s to the end of an English word. But when Elohim is the subject of a verb in this story, the verb is always in the singular. And now the plot thickens and we have the very first time that Elohim refers to itself. And Elohim calls itself, “us.” Perhaps this is the author’s way of expressing through creative grammar a God that is both many and one.
The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article. Click here to read a PDF version of the full article.
Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 3:67-68