The Supreme Value of Life by David Pietruzka


            In this week's Parsha, the Torah provides for us a central concept in Jewish life.  The Torah states שופך דם האדם באדם דמו ישפך כי בצלם א-לוהים עשה את האדם, "One who spills the blood of a person in a person his blood shall be spilled, because Hashem created people in the image of God."  This Pasuk teaches us a wealth of fundamental Torah laws.  First, it teaches the prohibition against murdering any human being, even the most wicked.  Every life has value, for even the most wicked individual may have a righteous person emerge as one of his descendants.  A famous example is that the great Rabbi Meir descended from the evil Babylonian general, נבוזדראן.

            This Pasuk also teaches the prohibition to commit suicide.  The Torah takes this prohibition so seriously that it prohibits self-incrimination in court.  The Torah fears perhaps an individual wishing to commit suicide will incriminate himself so that Bet Din will execute him.

            This Pasuk also teaches the prohibition against committing abortion.  The Rabbis teach that when the Pasuk says "a person within a person" it is referring to a fetus.  We see how the Torah respects the value of even potential human life.

            There is even an opinion that this includes a prohibition to embarass or shame another person.  We are forbidden from "killing" another individual's self-esteem.

            What is the basis of this great appreciation of human life?  The Pasuk tells us because "people were created in the image of God" - teaching us to approach all questions of human life and human dignity with the attitude that human life is sacred because we are created in God's image.

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