President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak together with other world leaders have condemned the actions of Hamas in unambiguous terms. These voices were echoed unequivocally in our shul last Tuesday in the powerful speeches of Lucy Fraser MP and Tom Tugendhat MP upholding Israel’s absolute moral right to protect itself.

This Shabbat, we commence the book of Bereishit and read the story of man, created in G-d’s image. Yet only three chapters later, Cain kills his brother Abel and by the end of the parasha, man’s wickedness is so great, G-d “regrets” the creation of man. How could it be that a human being, created by G-d in His image, descends so quickly into violence?

Are violence and evil are as old as the world itself?

It begs the question, are Hamas terrorists also created in the image of G-d?

The answer is that to be created in the image of G-d is a description, not a prescription.

Rabbi Lord Sacks explains that G-d has no image because He is not physical. He transcends the physical universe. Therefore, He is free, unconstrained by the laws of matter. By making us in His image, He gave us also the power to be free.

Says Rabbi Sacks:

“G-d chose to create the world …the free G-d freely creates the universe, saying, ‘Let there be.’

Making humankind in His image, after His likeness, meant that He endowed us too with freedom. All life was created. Humans alone are creative. Every life-form has drives, inherent instincts of survival. Humans alone are capable of … deciding which drives to pursue and which not. Other animals act. We alone bear responsibility for our acts because we could have chosen to act otherwise.

Freedom is G-d’s greatest gift to humankind but it is also the most fateful and terrifying. For it means that we alone have the power to destroy the work of G-d. This is the central drama of Tanakh and of Judaism as a whole. Will we use our freedom to respect order or misuse it to create chaos? Will we honour or dishonour the image of G-d that lives within the human heart and mind?”

The events of the last week have shown us the utter desecration of the image of G-d in acts of brutality not witnessed since the Holocaust

Our response must be to enhance the image of G-d in any and every way we can. Kind words. Kind deeds. Prayer and Torah study. To deepen our connection with G-d and to light up another person’s life. Together, we can better our lives with spiritual challenges as a protection for our  soldiers who risk their lives on the front line.

May G-d grant us success in our endeavours.