This week’s Torah portion includes the instructions that we are to bury the dead body of the capital punishment prisoner. Rashi explains why we are so careful in burying a person, even the person who gets the death penalty because “Adam Asoy Bidmus D’Yokano” Rashi 21:23 “for man is fashioned in G-d’s image.”
Every person was created “Btzelem Elokim” – “In the Image of Hashem.” This “image of Hashem” aspect is the gift of free choice that Hashem gives us. Hashem does not preprogram us, but allows us to choose our own destiny. We, little created beings though we are, still have the choice to do what we want to with our lives. The inherent value to a person is his/her ability to make choices (and by his/her choices, change the course of the world!) Even the drunk, wallowing in his own dirt in a ditch, was not preprogrammed like a robot. He had choice, which is considered to mirror G-d’s Image of free choice.
Never blame anyone else for your actions. You and you alone have choice in your life. Choose well, as it is a G-dlike attribute to be able to choose.
And…if a murderer gets respect, don’t you think then respect should be universal? Think well of this lesson the next time you slight someone with an insult. Remember, if the lowly drunk is exalted enough as to deserve respect, how much more so must we respect our acquaintances or our neighbors, who definitely have a large dose of Tzelem Elokim. I personally think that the only person who can possibly disrespect others is someone whose own vision of him/herself is clouded, only someone who is unsure he/she can rise to great heights. Because once you acknowledge your ability to be great, you realize others’ abilities to be great, too. Mechilta Mishpatim claims the worst of thieves is the one who steals another man’s confidence. Such a thief has taken away a person’s chance at greatness by making him feel he is too insignificant to rise and shine.