Man is the Pinnacle of Creation
What connection is there between the human body and the earth, given that they do not resemble one another in any way? The answer is that we can learn a great deal from both: From the earth, which was created at the beginning by the word of Hashem, and from the human body, which Hashem formed from the earth. When a person looks at the dust of the earth, he remembers that he was taken from it. He realizes that he is really nothing but dust, and that he will return to dust. The Name mem hei (same numerical value as adam) that is inscribed in a person, and the Torah of Hashem that is also inscribed in him, are what make him a man. When he merits it, a person differs both from animals and the earth. After creating all the land animals on the sixth day, Hashem said: “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). Hashem made man and then his wife Eve from him. He called them adam, this name being in keeping with the earth (adama), since their creation originated from the earth. In fact it would seem that there’s no real difference between man and beast, since animals were also created on the sixth day, and even before man. However there is a divine spark in man that sets the two apart. Hashem breathed a divine spark into man’s nostrils so he could sanctify himself in everything he says and does. What Hashem breathed into man came from within Him. This is why man is called adam, a name with the same numerical value (45) as the Tetragrammaton (when “filled” with three alephs, two vavs, and one daleth), which represents greatness and loftiness. Furthermore, man has the power to prolong Creation, creating or destroying what he wishes. In fact a tzaddik rules through the fear of G-d (II Samuel 23:3; Moed Katan 16b) and possesses real power, for Hashem does “the will of those who fear Him” (Psalms 145:19).
Hashem imposed a condition on Creation, namely that it must obey the words of a tzaddik. We know that certain tzaddikim of Morocco were able to stop the sun in order to prevent a desecration of Shabbat. That is, in order to reach their destination before Shabbat, they could stop the sun in the sky just as the prophet Joshua did when he said: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon in the valley of Aijalon” (Joshua 10:12). We also know the amazing story involving my grandfather, the tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto (may his merit protect us), who on the eve of Passover helped a Jew by taking out a small suitcase from his kiddush cup, one that had miraculously grown in size and become filled with seawater. Rabbi Haim Pinto wanted to help this Jew after he had miraculously survived a shipwreck, one in which his small suitcase (containing all his wealth) had been lost at sea.
It is therefore clear that each person is comprised of two components: Physical and spiritual. A person should not make the mistake, however, of thinking that the physical is greater than the spiritual component, for in that case he is liable to lose whatever spiritual strength he has. A very bad idea indeed! If that were the case – if a person were incapable of overcoming a physical trial – Hashem would have had no reason in creating him. This is because He only tests a person with what he is capable of overcoming. Hence the spiritual is greater than the physical.
What is the source of our spiritual strength? It is the living soul that Hashem breathed into man. Before doing this, man was like a corpse, and what Hashem breathed into man came from within Himself, meaning that it was divine. It is therefore the soul that sustains man, and without this soul his body is but a corpse. Thus man’s life derives from his soul. What levels of holiness can a person reach? We all know that everything which the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world was for the purpose of holiness. Everything is therefore holy, whether it be nourishment, fragrance, or even what the eyes see. At the same time, every created being has an angel that looks over it and says, “Grow” (Bereshith Rabba 10:6). Now it is clear that anything having an overseer to protect it is important. Otherwise there would be no need to appoint a guardian for it. Thus the fact that Hashem created guardians for every created being proves that all of Creation is holy.
As for man, he is at a higher level than all other things. He has no angel responsible for protecting him or making him grow, for he is truly G-d’s handiwork (Bereshith Rabba 24:5; Aggadah Bereshith 11). The Holy One, blessed be He, personally saw to his creation and formation. The dust from which he was drawn was holy and spiritual, and he was infused with life from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He. His hands touched man as he was being formed, making him even more sanctified than the rest of Creation.
Thus everywhere that Hashem touched man, He commanded him to use his 248 members and 365 sinews to observe the Torah and its mitzvot. This is like the sound of the human voice being good for fragrant herbs (the analogy being that fragrant herbs are the Torah and man has the importance of a Sefer Torah). Hence when Hashem touched man’s body and breathed into him a living soul, he became so highly sanctified that the angels mistook him for a divine being. They even wanted to exclaim, “Holy” before him (Bereshith Rabba 8:10). In fact until the angels saw him eating, they did not realize that he was only a man created in G-d’s image.
It is true that man eats the same things that an animal does. However man differs from and is loftier than an animal because the latter is entirely physical, whereas man is made in G-d’s image. This is only true of an individual person, however, when he conducts himself like a being created as G-d’s handiwork. If a person fails to safeguard the divine characteristics that Hashem has placed in him (namely holiness, the Torah, and the Names of Hashem), he no longer differs from an animal.
Now that we have explained, to some extent, man’s greatness and importance in Creation, it does not take much to realize that we cannot derive satisfaction from the world for a single instant without praising the Creator. In fact our main purpose and goal in this world is to serve Hashem, to separate ourselves and be distinct from all other created beings. It is only in this way that we may bring satisfaction to the Creator.