"You shall not leave his corpse on the tree, for he that is
hanged is a curse of Hashem." Rashi notes that it is a
disgrace for the King, for man was formed in the divine
image, and Israel are Hashem's children. This can be likened,
he says, to twin brothers, one of whom became a respected
minister and the other a criminal who was caught and hanged
for his crimes. Whoever sees the hanged man immediately
thinks that it is his distinguished brother.
In the image of G-d? "But to whom can you liken Me for
comparison: says the Holy One," the prophet declares in the
name of Hashem.
Will someone who sees the criminal's body swinging on the
gallows truly imagine that it is the minister? Is this
And yet, the Torah does testify that "in the image of Hashem
did He make man." It is also written, "Open up for Me, My
sister, My innocent one -- tamosi", which Chazal
homiletically interpret as "te'omosi -- My twin."
The Nefesh HaChaim explains that when one speaks of
Hashem, it is all holiness. Beyond our comprehension, beyond
the limits of our broadest power of imagination. But when one
relates to the world and to Hashem's power to sustain the
continued existence of the world, and of the reflection of
His might through the operation of this world, then we can
find some point of relation, of reference, of comparison, as
And that is in man. Man is blessed with a pure divine soul
and with spiritual powers and, in a true sense, the existence
of the world is dependent upon him, and only him. "A person
is obligated to say: The world was created for me."
When that criminal, who originally possessed the divine gift
that put him on a celestial plane, plummeted to such a base
state as to be hanged on the gallows, this is a terrible
degradation, an insult to his Maker. He could have ruled on
high, exercised his powers and potential for divine
greatness. But instead, he forfeited everything and was
reduced to carrion for birds of prey.
This was a man in whom Hashem vested the very existence of
the world! But he cast away his uniqueness, his preciousness,
and became a figure of disgrace, an example of the lowest
level man can reach, a sight for derision and disgust,
anathema. This is a humiliation to the King, Who entrusted
His keys to this man. It is as if he swings in public with
the very keys still in his pocket!
The influence, or mark, of Hashem's goodness in the world, or
the lack and constriction of it on the other hand, are
conditional on man's conduct. For everything in this world,
writes the Mesilas Yeshorim, was created to serve the
perfect man. And everything is elevated, or denigrated
accordingly, in the measure which man uses it, and the
identity of the man who utilizes it.
Furthermore, man himself is comprised of soul and body,
spirit and matter. He has the power to impose his will upon
his corpus and to transform it into something divine when it
helps him achieve his goal of serving Hashem and rising
"For the Creator blew into him a living soul infused with
good sense and intuitive wisdom to draw closer to Him, to
attempt to get to know Hashem and to fear Him accordingly, to
gain control over the body, just as he was given the power of
dominion over all living creatures below him, those who do
not have the gift of speech. For that which is dear to Him is
distinguished," (Sha'arei Teshuvah).
Rabbenu Yonah describes the conflict and goal of the soul as
a battle with the body -- but not as a war. Rather, it is a
rule of reverence and acknowledged deference. The soul is
capable of ruling the body in the same measure as man has the
power to rule over living creatures. It is a state of
supremacy, a level of respect it acquires by virtue of its
higher nature. "For that which is dear in His eyes is
The ability to want and to break one's will and to do the
very opposite of what attracts, to conquer one's drives, is
power -- this is the very essence of a divine image. "This is
the concretization of dominion and power invested in man. He
rules the world: the inanimate, vegetable and animate
kingdoms, and above all, his own self!
When this powerful creature, who is capable of suppressing
his drives and ruling his animal nature, succumbs, after all,
and is the victim of his own yetzer, what a terrible
disgrace it is.
If a person commits a crime for which he is sentenced to
hanging, he has fallen victim to the sin; instead of ruling
over his body, he has submitted and capitulated to its wishes
like an indentured slave, and has sunk deep into sin to the
point of forfeiting his very life. And then he has severed
all contact with his soul, with truth.
The biggest ignominy is his being hanged upon the gallows.
What a disgrace! Do not let his body hang there overnight for
all to see. It is too great a travesty to his Namesake; it is
a curse, as it were, towards his Creator. The pure soul is a
portion of the Divine. It was given the power and authority
to rule, to subjugate the entire world, to invest it with
eternity. But, sadly, it failed. Alas for the devastating
shame, disgrace, infamy.
Heresy against the Torah is always accompanied by rebellion
in the essence of man. Where there is a lack of awareness of
Hashem, there is a corresponding lack of awareness of the
divine image as well. It is a brief step from there to
complete surrender. Modern psychology is built on the premise
that man is just another animal, incapable of fighting his
innate drives. This is an inseparable element of an entire
weltanschauung of kefirah. A denial of
divinity, a denial of the King and those created in His
The entire Torah is built around the very opposite, upon a
belief in Hashem and in the divine image invested in man. A
belief in the majesty and glory that comes from using G-d-
given tools to achieve divinity by carrying out one's mission
in life, in the design of Creation, by grappling with one's
animal nature and overcoming it, sublimating it, as well as a
belief in the power of attaining goals, achievements, a
belief that "the world was created for me."