In addition, this parsha mentions kidnapping with the intent to enslave — the Torah calls for the death penalty in response to such a crime.
Human trafficking and especially child trafficking made waves in the media over the past couple of years...despite how trafficking has been going on for a very long time prior to all the publicity.
Trafficking is a form of kidnapping. Sometimes the victims are actually kidnapped, sometimes they are deceived into going with their captors. And the enslavement that follows is horrific.
Yet think of a world in which everyone recognized the tzelem Elokim of the other.
You wouldn't have human trafficking.
You wouldn't have kidnappings, especially of children, which so often end in the abuse, enslavement, and even murder of the child.
In recognizing the Divine Image imprinted on the other person, which includes the spirit of life breathed into each person by Hashem (with the infinite potential that implies), others wouldn't seek to exploit and harm people.
You wouldn't have abortion or euthanasia either.
How to Truly Expand Your Mind
And indeed, when the USA was more religious and all people read & respected the Bible (even if they also misunderstood a lot of it), they imbibed the concept of every human being made in God's Image — and society was more moral at that time.
Whether we realize it or not, disabled people benefit us so much.
For example, their very presence reminds us to be grateful for our able minds & bodies.
And the chessed necessary for them takes us out of our own world and expands us in ways we couldn't otherwise.
The Smile Only a Pure & Lofty Soul Can Give
For some reason, it ended up being a looooong wait.
While stifling my increasing irritability and trying to reframe the situation ("Hashem WANTS me waiting here interminably; it's the best thing that could happen to me right now!"), a little Down's syndrome girl suddenly swept into the room with her mother close behind her.
The little girl looked happy & interested to be there. When she turned, she gave me the most beautiful smile.
All in all, the experience was like a beautiful light sweeping into the room.
We know that most mentally disabled people possess lofty souls that do not need regular abilities & mitzvot to complete their soul rectifications, so they are born without such abilities or obligations.
As children, these people are exceptionally pure & innocent (even as they can also be very difficult to raise).
I've seen a lot of beautiful smiles, but this little girl's smile struck me in the most beautiful way.
I NEEDED that smile.
Who else could have given it?
For a variety of reasons, these people serve a very real purpose in society.
The Boy without a Brain
The light glowing from his face fascinated me.
Without a brain, he wasn't remotely functional. But he looked so beautiful — and he glowed.
This made me realize I was seeing his tzelem Elokim which, due to his purity and inability to see or hear the grossness of This World, was particularly prominent & visible on his face.
Even more surprising, his parents & grandmother loved him so much, despite all the work he made for them — a situation made even more grueling by their obvious lack of finances.
I remember his grandmother with her dyed red hair, sporting a bandanna. She spoke so lovingly of him. She and his parents wanted so much for him to continue living.
His existence, helpless & flawed as it was, enhanced his family's life so much.
We need such people in our world.
Who says they should be aborted?
Or even, as some elite intellectuals suggest, be "euthanized" after their birth?
It's not easy dealing with mental or physical disabilities (and their caretakers deserve our support: practically, emotionally, and financially), but that's part of the reason why WE benefit from them: We need to stretch ourselves to meet their needs.
Disabled people are the real givers.
But without the recognition of tzelem Elokim, it's impossible to see that truth.
Even the word "liberal" conjures up images of "freedom" & "liberty."
Abortion advocates promote their cause using the language of compassion.
Nowadays, parents who DON'T abort disabled children are called "cruel."
"Compassionate" liberals feel that killing a flawed baby is a kindness to the child, preventing the child from suffering.
(They often don't suffer anyway. But regardless, avoidance of suffering is not usually a legitimate reason to commit either suicide or homicide.)
Today, so many people do not receive the compassion & support they need.
People in vulnerable situations (like the elderly or disabled or the disadvantaged) find themselves judged or ignored or exploited or abused.
Racism has become a major topic today, but without tzelem Elokim, it's hardly worth addressing.
Accusations of racism are lobbed by racists themselves in order to browbeat others to bow to their will.
We face the irrational belief that only white people can be considered racist; all non-white racists are simply carrying out justice or taking reparations for slavery.
However, because most black Americans contain so much Native American or white genetics, the question becomes: Should they give reparations to themselves?
Furthermore, other black Americans are recent immigrants (or the children of) and never enslaved by white people in America.
And the fact that black people in the American South owned black slaves too? Ignored.
Who owes who?
But with the concept of tzelem Elokim, you wouldn't have racism or human rights abuses.
♪ "Imagine all the people embracing the tzelem Elokim..." ♫