At the end of day six of creation, all but one thing has come into existence by the word of God. And so God declares:
נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ
“Shall we make humanity according to our form and likeness?”
Who is this “we?” Does God have a design committee? Perhaps it is the “royal we?” The text is silent. So the midrash tells a story to answer the question.
When it comes time for the Holy Blessed One to create humanity, the ministering angels break off into factions and groupings. Some of them say yibarei! Let humanity be created! While others declare Al yibarei! Don’t let them be created!
A verse in Psalms alludes to this epic argument:
חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת נִפְגָּשׁוּ צֶדֶק וְשָׁלוֹם נָשָׁקוּ
“Kindness and truth met, justice and peace kissed.” (Psalm 85:11)
But this was no meeting of friends, no kiss of love. It was combat – pure and simple, with the fate of humanity in the balance.
Chesed, kindness, stands up and proclaims “Let humanity be created, for they will perform countless acts of gemilut chasadim, of lovingkindness.”
Then Emet, Truth, rises to object, “Don’t do it! They will all be liars!”
Tzedek, Righteousness, takes his turn and declares “Let them be created, for they will give untold sums of tzedakah!”
Finally, Shalom, peace, steps forward and laments, “Let them not be created, for they will be full of violence!”
The arguments fly back and forth between the angels. “Let them be created!” “Don’t let them be created!” Nobody can convince the other.
So what does the Holy Blessed One do? God grabs Emet, Truth, and casts her to the ground.
Stunned, the angels look up at God and ask, “How can you treat your seal in this way?” For Truth is the seal of God. “Let Truth rise back up from the ground!”
And then the angels turn back to each other, and the arguing breaks out again, even louder and more heated than before.
While they are otherwise engaged, God quietly sneaks out the back and creates the first human. God returns to the angels, shows them the new creation, and says “Why are you guys still arguing. Behold: humanity.”
According to this midrash, we should not read it as Na’aseh Adam (נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם) – “Shall we make humanity?” but rather Na’asah Adam נַֽעֲשָׂה אָדָ֛ם – Humanity has been made in our form and our likeness. It is not a question that God asks the angels. It is a report, after the fact. A fait accomplis.
I love this midrash on so many levels. It expresses the moral complexity of being human. We can be wonderful to each other, left one another up with kindness and restore each other’s dignity. But we fight and argue. We deceive one another and behave as if we are always in competition. This is our struggle, as individuals and as a species.
The midrash also depicts a fight, a stalemate – in which nobody can convince each other of their point of view. When we cannot agree on the truth, it is impossible to see things from another point of view, to compromise, to find common ground. To break the tie sometimes requires letting go of our need to be right. So God casts truth to the earth. It can sprout again, but only if it is fed by righteousness and kindness.
Finally, the image of God sneaking out the back to go create humanity while the angels fight is just wonderful. How often does our need to win hold us back from ever moving forward in positive direction?