As we begin reading the Torah all over again this Shabbat – starting with the creation story – we come across a very timely message. While creating humanity, God says to the angels, let us make men and women holy just like us. (Genesis 1:26-27) God doesn’t say let’s make men holier than women. The angels don’t suggest that people with lighter skin are holier than people with darker skin. There’s no discussion about what will make one person holier than another person. Humanity is holy – period. This is driven home by that fact that, while all the other living creatures are created en masse, humanity begins as one person – Adam. Adam contains Eve who will emerge over time, filled with exactly the same holiness as Adam. Together, the first human couple will begin to populate the earth, spreading their holiness.
Because humanity began as one person and, thus, we’re all deeply connected, the Talmud teaches us that “anyone who destroys a human life is considered as if s/he had destroyed an entire world, and anyone who preserves a human life is considered to have preserved an entire world.” (Sanhedrin 37a) Unfortunately, humanity has disconnected from the holiness at our core and the core of those with whom we share this world. The Torah warns us that this can happen. Adam and Eve’s own son, Cain, takes the life of his brother, Abel, shattering the beautiful world that God had just brought into existence.
We continue to shatter the world. This week we’re focused on sexual abuse and harassment. Last week we were focused on the attack in Las Vegas. Before that, we were focused on anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination – and the list goes on. All of these abominations are dragging us down – stripping us of the holiness that should define humanity and destroying our world. Yes, we need to talk about these abominations. We need to stand up to them. We need to stop them. But, with so much negativity going on around us, we must remember the positive words of the Talmud: “anyone who preserves human life is considered to have preserved an entire world.” We need to embrace the holiness inside of ourselves and inside of others. We need to engage in the Radical Kindness Rabbi Cheryl spoke about over the holidays. We need to hop off those moving walkways as I suggested on Rosh HaShanah and embrace love. In doing so, we can redeem this very broken world. In doing so, we will honor the beautiful story of creation that we read this Shabbat and strengthen the holiness that this story teaches us has been a part of humanity from the beginning of time. It’s time to reclaim this holiness and save this world.