In this week's parsha, the Torah records the following verse ()א,כז ויברא אלוקים את האדם בצלמו: בצלם אלוקים ברא אותו. The Talmud Yerushalmi in Nedarim on דף ל. cites the following exchange between Rabbi Akiva and Ben Azai. Rabbi Akiva says that the Pasuk of ואהבת לרעך כמוך is a great principle of the Torah. Ben Azai says that the Pasuk ויברא אלוקים את האדם בצלם אלוקים ברא אותו is an even greater principle.
The question one can raise concerning this statement of Ben Azai is why did Ben Azai feel that the Pasuk of ויברא אלוקים is a greater principle than ואהבת לרעך כמוך? What prompted him to say this? The answer seems to be as follows: Love of one's fellow man, without recognizing that man was created in the image of God is doomed to failure. After all, why should a person feel obligated to love his fellow man. Man is such a tiny speck of matter in the masses of space that extends for millions of light years in every direction. So is man worthy of more consideration than an animal or insect? However, when one realizes that man is fashioned in the image of God, a God that created the heavens and the earth, he is transformed from an insignificant being to a being without parallel. Although minuscule, man is the pinnacle of creation. This seems to be what Ben Azai meant by his statement. ואהבת לרעך כמוך is a very important principle, but it cannot be put into effect unless we realize that man was created in the image of God.