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    The Mishna in Pirkeh
    Abot (3:14) teaches, “Man
    is precious, in that he
    was created in the image
    [of G-d]… Yisrael are
    precious, in that they were called children of the
    Almighty… Yisrael are precious in that they were
    given a beloved vessel [the Torah]…”
    For each of these three statements, the Mishna
    brings a verse to prove the point being made. The
    statement that people are created in G-d’s image is
    supported by the verse, “for He made man in the
    image of G-d” (Bereshit 9:6). The statement that
    Am Yisrael are G-d’s children is supported from
    the verse, “You are children of Hashem your G-d”
    (Devarim 14:1). And the statement that we have
    been given a “beloved utensil” is supported with
    the verse in Mishleh (4:2), “For I have given you
    good teaching; do not abandon My Torah.”
    The Netivot Shalom (Rav Shalom Noach
    Berezovsky of Slonim, 1911-2000) raised the
    simple question of why this Mishna is included
    in Pirkeh Avot, which is a collection of practical
    ethical and religious teachings. The Mishnayot in
    Pirkeh Abot give us instructions and guidance for
    living our lives as Torah Jews. For what purpose
    are we told in Pirkeh Avot that we are “precious”
    both because we are human beings and because we
    are members of Am Yisrael?
    The answer, the Netivot Shalom explains, is that
    this Mishna seeks to bolster our self-esteem, and
    reassure us that we are “precious” in the eyes of

    G-d. One of the common obstacles to religious
    commitment is shame and a lack of self-worth.
    Many people look at themselves, their behavior
    and their lives and conclude that G-d has no
    interest in them, that the sanctity of the Torah has
    no relevance to them. The Mishna therefore comes
    along and assures us that no matter who we are and
    what we have done, we are “Habib” – “precious,”
    both because we are human beings endowed with
    the divine image, and because we, as Jews, are
    princes, the children of the King of the world.
    The Netivot Shalom explains on this basis why the
    Mishna chose specifically the three verses it cited.
    The verse, “for He made man in the image of G-d”
    actually appears in the context of the prohibition of
    murder. G-d warns that one who murders another
    person will himself be killed, because every person
    is endowed with the image of G-d. The Mishna
    chose this verse, the Netivot Shalom explains,
    because this verse makes it absolutely clear that
    every human being, for all time, has the image of
    G-d within him, and it can never be lost. If a person
    murders somebody else, he is liable to the death
    penalty regardless of who the victim was – because
    all people have a sacred spark within their souls, no
    matter what mistakes they have made.
    The second verse cited by the Mishna – “You are
    children of Hashem your G-d” – introduces the
    prohibition against self-mutilation in response to
    personal tragedy (“Lo Titgodedu”). The Mishna
    could have cited an earlier verse to prove that Am
    Yisrael are Hashem’s children – G-d’s message to

    Pharaoh, “Yisrael is My firstborn son” (Shemot
    4:22). It didn’t cite that verse, the Netivot Shalom
    writes, because one might have then assumed that
    only in those times, when G-d brought Beneh
    Yisrael from Egypt, we had the status of His
    beloved children. And so the Mishna cited the
    verse, “You are children of Hashem your G-d”
    which introduces a command which is eternally
    binding. This verse demonstrates that for all time,
    and under all circumstances, we are the Almighty’s
    beloved children.
    Finally, the Mishna proves that we are precious by
    virtue of our having been given the priceless gift of
    the Torah, citing the verse, “For I have given you
    good teaching; do not abandon My Torah.” This
    verse speaks to each and every person, in each and
    every era, assuring him that the Torah has been
    given to him, it is relevant to him, and it is binding
    upon him.
    Each morning, we recite a special Beracha –
    “Birkat Ha’Torah” – thanking Hashem for giving
    us the Torah. This Beracha concludes, “Baruch
    Ata Hashem Noten He’Torah” – “Blessed are You,
    Hashem, who gives the Torah.” This Beracha is
    formulated in the present tense – “who gives the
    Torah” – because the Torah is given to us anew,
    each and every day, no matter what situation we
    are in, and no matter what spiritual level we are on.
    This is something to reflect upon as we prepare
    for Shabuot, when we celebrate Matan Torah. It is
    a mistake to think that Matan Torah was relevant
    only to previous generations, when Jews lived

    on a higher level, when they did not have the
    distractions and temptations that we face in our
    time. This is incorrect. We must remind ourselves
    that the Torah is for us – yes, even us. Let us not
    belittle ourselves. As the Mishna teaches us, we are
    G-d’s beloved children, eternally. He wants us to
    serve Him and to build a relationship with Him to
    the best of our ability, no matter what we have done
    in the past.
    The Gemara relates that when the Romans
    entered the Bet Ha’mikdash, just before they set
    the building ablaze, they entered the Kodesh
    Ha’kodashim – the most sacred chamber, where
    the Aron was kept – and they saw the two
    Kerubim (cherubs) on top of the Aron embracing
    one another. This symbolized G-d’s embracing
    the Jewish People. Even at that moment, when
    G-d was angry at His nation and destroyed the
    Mikdash, He showed us how much He loves us.
    G-d’s love for us is eternal and unconditional, and
    so our commitment to Torah must be eternal and
    Yes, the Torah is for us, on whatever level we are
    on, because no matter what, Hashem wants us to
    have this most precious of all gifts – the sacred