Beloved is Man who was created in the image of Hashem
Question: Does the teaching of our Sages, “Beloved is man who was created in the image of Hashem,” applies only to the Jewish nation, or does it apply to the other nations of the world as well? Similarly, does this apply only to righteous individuals or does it apply to the wicked as well? Answer: The Mishnah in Masechet Avot (Chapter 3, Mishnah 18) states: “Beloved is man who was created in the image of Hashem.” The source for this is the verse (Bereshit, 9) which states, “If one spills the blood of man, his blood shall be spilled by man, for Hashem has made the man in His image.” Our Sages explain (Sanhedrin 57b) that this verse refers to aborting a fetus; since the sons of Noach, i.e. the non-Jewish nations, were commanded not to kill (for this is indeed one of the Seven Noachide Laws) and aborting a fetus is included in the prohibition of murder which the sons of Noach were commanded to refrain from. The Gemara derives this from the juxtaposition of the words “the man” and “by man” in the verse. The Rambam (Chapter 9 of Hilchot Melachim, Halacha 4) rules likewise: “A non-Jew who kills another person, even a fetus in its mother’s womb, is liable for death.” Based on this, we can determine that when the Torah states, “For Hashem made man in His image,” this refers to both Jews and non-Jews alike, for Hashem created all human beings in His likeness. Even non-Jews are commanded not to kill a fetus in its mother’s womb, for even it was created in Hashem’s image. The Sefer Midrash Shmuel writes that he asked Rabbeinu Chaim Vital the above question and he answered him that the wicked are not included in the verse, “For Hashem made man in His image.” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains this (in his Ma’or Yisrael, Derashot, page 345) based on the holy Zohar (Parashat Noach) which writes that although all humans were created in the image of Hashem, this does not refer to man’s physical, bodily image; rather, this refers to the spiritual image of man which impacts and vitalizes the body. When people sin before Hashem, the image of Hashem is removed from them (see Shabbat 151b). Additionally, Hagaon Harav Avraham Yitzchak Ha’Kohen Kook zt”l writes in his Responsa Da’at Kohen (Chapter 199) regarding the prohibition of autopsy that this prohibition applies only to a Jewish corpse and not to a non-Jewish corpse, for the Jewish nation was commanded to preserve their image of Hashem by abstaining from eating forbidden foods and performing the Mitzvot. Non-Jews, on the other hand, are permitted not to preserve their Heavenly image and they may eat whatever they like and act however they wish. For this reason, a Jewish body after death retains its sanctity; however, a non-Jew is not commanded to retain this sanctity and therefore, his body retains no sanctity after death. (See further Sefer Ru’ach Yaakov, Chapter 1, Section 2.)
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