Created as One by Aviva Meshwork
There was a terror attack in Israel recently and four Jews were killed. You probably know that already. It was in the news. There was a raid on a weapons factory in Hebron too — weapons that were intended for potential victims of a would-be terrorist attack. You may know that already too since it was also in the news.
We continually learn about these types of horrible incidents. In the not so far recesses of our minds exists the notion that life is tremendously valuable, and that awareness is ever present especially while we attempt to wrap our heads around the news. However, we still face the challenge of feeling anything but numb when we hear about so many incidents of human tragedy.
My son explained this best. "When I first heard about terror attacks, especially towards people who are so young, like soldiers, I was really shocked. I couldn’t believe that stuff like that happened. But now when I hear about it, it doesn’t shock me anymore because it happens so often now,” he said, his voice trailing off at the end.
A pit in my stomach formed. I realized that my young son was becoming like the rest of us. Desensitized.
I suppose that on some level, desensitivity is a good thing, for without it, we would be walking around in a severely traumatized state. Our nerves would be shot, our anxiety would be off the charts and our sadness — at the realization that our world has gone mad — would abound.
Yet, how can we just settle for the status quo? How can we accept that the world's ‘new normal’ is one that includes senseless acts of violence, which very often lead to tragic loss of life? Don’t tragedies of such grand proportions require more of a response from us than shaking our heads? What are we missing? This is human life after all…
Fortunately, our Jewish value system is replete with antidotes for things that just don’t make sense. Our Torah emphasizes that human life is intensely valuable. In fact, Kevod Habriyot, honoring G-d's creations, implies that all of creation is dignified and worthy of honor simply because it was created by G-d. The birds in the sky, the leaves on the trees, the creepy crawlies on the ground and, of course, the loftiest of all, man and woman, are all exalted and precious by virtue of the fact that they are G-d’s creations. If G-d deems their stay on earth worthy, then they are.
Judaism explains, “Humans were first created as one single person (Adam) to teach you that anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed a whole world; and anyone who saves one life, it is as if s/he saved a whole world.” Further, the Torah tells us, “G-d created man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.”
Since every human being was created in the image of G-d, each of us have the inherent potential for greatness. Each and every one of us has the ability to contribute to the world in truly the most meaningful ways — ways that have far reaching benefits for humankind, directly and indirectly.
We are all connected and affect each other in ways that are oftentimes immeasurable. When someone decides to use their good qualities to benefit someone or some cause, the potential for good may touch a great many. Since we are all inherently good, it is natural for us to want to pay it forward; one good deed follows the next.
It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but the latent possibility of someone’s life making an impact is very real. Every Jewish soul is akin to a candle, as it says in Proverbs, "The soul of man is G‑d's candle." The potential of a candle to spread its warmth and light ceases to exist when it has been blown out too soon. So too when a life is taken ‘before its time.'
The first step towards making us feel the value of each human life is to remember the tremendous emphasis Judaism places on it and why that is so. People are so precious because G-d created us. Imbuing this basic belief into our minds and our children's minds is important in this day and age. Appreciating the value of honoring G-d's creations is at the core of a moral world — a world that views people through an honorable lens, as dignified, Divine creations with inborn worth and necessity.
Aviva Meshwork is a Trip Director for the JWRP. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Israel with her husband and children.