The great scholar Rabbi Akiva famously said that the greatest principle in all of the Torah is to: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). But a more humble scholar of that same ancient age named Ben Azzai, chose instead a more humble verse from this week’s Torah Portion. Ben Azzai said that the greatest principle in all of the Torah is:
“This is the story of the generations of Adam: When God created Adam, God made that first human being in God’s own likeness.” (Genesis 5:1)
It is an unlikely choice, I know – one of the many “begats” in the Bible which simply begins a long list of the genealogy of some character whose story is about to be told. But this isn’t just any genealogy, this is the line of the very first human soul, so this is the beginnings of us all.
And, that is Ben Azzai’s point in choosing this verse as the first and greatest principle in all of the Torah. We are all the descendants of one human family and each of us carries within us a certain likeness of the Divine. We are all God’s Children, the creations of God’s hands, and when we see that in one another, there can be no greater principle for the Torah to teach, or for us to learn.
Love your neighbor as yourself, for we are all the children of the One Eternal God.