Man Should Strive to Be Like God—but Not Too Much

In its classic rabbinic formulation, the principle of imitatio dei, that man should seek to imitate God, demands that “just as He is merciful, you too should be merciful; just as He is forgiving, you too should be forgiving; just as He visits the sick, you too should visit the sick.” Yet, writes David Fried, this principle has its limits. The great 11th-century Bible commentator Rashi makes this clear in his explanation of God’s declaration (Genesis 2:18) that “It is not good that man should be alone”—which immediately precedes the creation of woman.

Rashi . . . writes that it is not good for man to be alone “so that he should not say there are two domains: ‘the Holy One, Blessed is He, is alone in the upper world and has no partner, and I am alone in the lower world and have no partner.’” For Rashi, the problem with man being alone is that he will become arrogant, thinking himself too similar to God.

This [interpretation] provides a necessary counterbalance to potential abuses of . . . the concept of imitatio dei. Jewish tradition has typically emphasized this idea regarding specific traits and behaviors, like compassion and mercy, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, comforting mourners, and burying the dead. But . . . people have misused this concept throughout history, invoking God’s dominion over the world to legitimate subordinating other human beings to their rule.

The Christian Bible itself (1Corinthians 11:3) draws an explicit analogy between God’s authority over man and man’s authority over woman. One of the early church fathers, John Chrysostom, argued that a slave should be resigned to his fate because by “obeying his master he is obeying God.” Each of these examples justifies institutions that oppress or marginalize other human beings by presenting the person in power as imitating God.

To the extent that imitatio dei is a Torah principle, it means something vastly different than it did for Plato. Even as he tried to make them paragons of moral virtue, . . . Plato’s gods are essentially human in their nature, projections of the best qualities humans desire. Imitatio dei thus emerges as a natural principle of morality. If the gods embody the best of human qualities, it follows that humans should strive to be like the gods. The monotheism of the Jewish tradition begins with a transcendent deity wholly unlike anything human. The most basic principle underlying the human relationship with God is not imitatio dei, but divine command.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, New Testament, Plato, Rashi

 

The Attempted Murder of Salman Rushdie Should Render the New Iran Deal Dead in the Water

Aug. 15 2022

On Friday, the Indian-born, Anglo-American novelist Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed and severely wounded while giving a public lecture in western New York. Reports have since emerged—although as yet unverified—that the would-be assassin had been in contact with agents of Iran, whose supreme leaders have repeatedly called on Muslims to murder Rushdie. Meanwhile U.S. and European diplomats are trying to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. Stephen Daisley comments:

Salman Rushdie’s would-be assassin might have been a lone wolf. He might have had no contact with military or intelligence figures. He might never even have set foot in Tehran. But be in no doubt: he acted, in effect, as an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under the terms of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie “and all those involved in [his novel The Satanic Verses’s] publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Khomeini urged “brave Muslims to kill them quickly wherever they find them so that no one ever again would dare to insult the sanctities of Muslims,” adding: “anyone killed while trying to execute Rushdie would, God willing, be a martyr.”

An American citizen has been the victim of an attempted assassination on American soil by, it appears, another American after decades of the Iranian supreme leader agitating for his murder. No country that is serious about its national security, to say nothing of its national self-worth, can pretend this is some everyday stabbing with no broader political implications.

Those implications relate not only to the attack on Rushdie. . . . In July, a man armed with an AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident who was also the intended target of an abduction plot last year orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence agent. The cumulative weight of these outrages should render the new Iran deal dead in the water.

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy