Who’s the “us” in “Let us make man”?

July 14th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


In Genesis God declares, “Let Us make man in Our Own Image.” Who is the Us?

∼ Ted M., MD


Dear Ted,

The phrase, “Let us make man…” is the subject of volumes of ancient Jewish wisdom. So troubling is it on the surface, that when Jewish sages were forced to translate the Bible into Greek (an event whose ramifications are felt so deeply that until today that date is observed annually by fasting) seventy sages purposely mistranslated the verse, despite being in different rooms. Miraculously every one of them translated it as, “let me make man”.

As with everything in the Five books of Moses, we are trained to see it not as history, but as guidance for our lives in all times and places. With that in mind, we’d like to share one idea, while stressing that there are literally dozens of others that need to be melded together to get the correct meaning.

The idea we find so fitting for today’s day and age is that God is including all of us in His plan. He is making man different from all the other creatures. Each animal is expected to follow inborn instincts and is not held accountable for doing so. Only man is expected to “make” himself, largely by mastering his instincts. In that sense, all of us are partners with God in making ourselves. Our contributions in helping God make us, our building our virtue, sculpting our integrity, gaining our wisdom, and in so many other areas, are all viewed as fully the equal of God’s contribution. That is why God says, “Let us…” Yes, us, you and Me together.

As a physician, you partner with God not only in “making” yourself, but also in “making” others,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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One comment

Mr. Henderson says:

Look up the word “we” in Hebrew… this is why you folks are really brilliant. Listen to the differentiation and tell me that that sound doesn’t come from the other side of the galaxy, beyond the universe it seems in fact. Far beyond “mind blown”. Great matirial.

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