Yet the Torah immediately warns us not to leave the dead sinner hanging overnight.
Because although he was guilty beyond any doubt, he is a human being created with tzelem Elokim (Hashem's Divine Image), and it is therefore disrespectful to leave this Divine Image hanging wantonly.
This is a powerful lesson.
Even though this human being sinned to the point that his life was no longer worth living, he still possesses a Divine Image.
This is also why, in the aftermath of even the most savage terror attack, Zaka (Jewish volunteers who work to identify & preserve dead bodies and their parts — along with providing life-saving first aid to the survivors) does not mutilate or abuse the dead body of the terrorist.
Certainly, the body of the evil terrorist deserves no respect or consideration.
Yet they cover his body out of respect for Hashem's Divine Image.
It's all for the honor of Hashem. The beastly terrorist himself isn't taken into consideration at all.
Tzelem Elokim: Worth Discussing for 40 Years
Rav Miller recalls that the Alter of Slabodka spoke for 40 years about the concept of tzelem Elokim.
In fact, on page 7, there's an amusing story of how the Alter's last words to his talmidim upon traveling away were about tzelem Elokim.
That was the final message he wanted to leave for his talmidim.
It's out of respect for our Creator.
Rav Miller even recommends pleasantly telling our children in the morning, "Wash your tzelem Elokim" as a way of telling them to wash their face.
This is a natural way to pass on that idea and generate the concept of mitzvah with such a simple act.
On page 8, Rav Miller offers a beautiful & compelling description of the human face, any human face anywhere in the world.
To go deeper, Rav Miller describes how Hashem blew the nishmat chayim (the breath of life) via the nostrils — an opening in the human face.
Hashem didn't do this for animals; only human beings.
Therefore, this life-giving vitality is also part of our tzelem Elokim.
Why Toxic Shame, Self-Hatred, & Thinking of Humans as High-Concept Animals are All Against the Torah
Therefore, we absorbed certain infinite qualities that entered us when Hashem blew His Breath into our face.
This means, says Rav Miller (page 9):
It doesn’t mean that you’re already perfect, but it means that you possess within your soul a capability for endless perfection.
Even though it's impossible for most people to achieve such levels in one lifetime, the potential is still there.
The innate ability exists.
Today, so many people feel bad about themselves, described as suffering from "toxic shame."
On the flip side of that coin, many people perceive themselves as a higher form of animal and act accordingly — while encouraging others to act accordingly too.
The popular yet incorrect idea of genetic predeterminism (countered by the real science of epigenics, which states that we activate or deactivate our genes) also joins the human-as-a-higher-animal belief.
But tzelem Elokim shatters the blatant falsehood of these animal-oriented views.
Far from being mere evolved animals, we possess something of the Divine & Infinite.
Rather than being innately defective or bad, we possess something Godly & Good; we are imbued with infinite Godly potential.
Embrace Your Innate God-Given Greatness!
(Rav Miller details this on page 10.)
Just think of how well humanity would behave if everyone internalized the concept of tzelem Elokim.
Life would be beautiful.
People would feel compelled to treat others with respect.
The psychology of self-improvement would be based on morality and getting in touch with one's innate Godliness (rather than "how I can be richer, more socially & financially successful, physically healthier, enjoy myself more, feel more comfortable, and meet my own needs").
Certainly, we would be physically healthier, but not as the Greek ideal.
We would cultivate healthy eating habits for spiritual reasons, out of respect for our tzelem Elokim, and not to conform to the latest trends of beauty.
What Not to Say
(You can see more about that here: What is a Clean Tongue?)
Most people don't know the root of the word, but it comes from the Hebrew word for sheketz — abomination.
And even though many Lithuanian gentiles behaved abominably (both against each other & against the Jews), those of the Slabodka yeshivah refused to utter shaigetz because (page 11):
How can you say shaigetz on a human face?!
How can you say shaigetz on a tzelem Elokim?
2 Seconds over Several Times a Day Can Transform Your Mind
A person's face, body, smell, clothes, hair — that's not focusing on the tzelem Elokim.
On page 13, Rav Miller offers practical tips for re-orienting your mind toward the Truth.
Look at a person and think: "That face is an image of Hashem."
Repeat this often.
In other lectures, Rav Miller also recommends gazing at your spouse's face & thinking: "I am now looking at the tzelem Elokim."
This is a simple 2-second act that reaps profound results.
You can change your whole way of relating to other people just by doing this.