Rav Avigdor Miller on The Greatness of a Gentile
How can you say even a goy is a tzelem Elokim; that even a gentile has the image of Hashem on his face? Isn’t that saying too much?
Now, the person asking this question is making a mistake. Because it doesn’t say in the mishna חביבין ישראל שנבראו בצלם אלוקים – that Yisroel are beloved because they were created in the image of Hashem. That’s a mistake. It says חביב אדם שנברא בצלם אלוקים – Mankind is beloved because they were created in the image of Hashem. The mishna says openly that all human beings have a tzelem Elokim. The truth is, if you take an Australian bushman, a wild fellow, an Aborigine, and you train him, he can become a mensch; he can become a great man, he can even become a big tzadik. As long as he is a human being there is no limit to the greatness he possesses within him. Hashem breathed into him a neshama and he is capable of becoming one of the greatest men that ever lived. Of course he doesn’t know it and that is why he doesn’t do it. But that’s the plain truth: חביב אדם – Mankind is great because he was created in the image of Hashem.
Only that Yisroel are especially chosen. חביבין ישראל שנקראו בנים למקום – Yisroel are especially chosen and they are called banim la’Makom; they are Hashem’s children. That’s very important for us to know; Hakodosh Boruch Hu said “Of all the nations in the world I know only you.” רק אתכם ידעתי מכל משפחות האדמה – Only you I know of all the nations of the world (Amos 3:2). It means only you I love; all the nations are like nothing compared to you.
Now, that is a chauvinistic and selfish attitude that we are supposed to learn – because Hakodosh Boruch Hu tells us we have no choice but to accept it. שמע ישראל – Listen Yisroel, ה’ אלוקינו – He is ours. He is ours! ה’ אחד – there is only One and He is ours. And so when you say kriyas shema think of the greatness of the Am Yisroel. What can we do about it? That’s what He said to us.
But always we remember that every human being has on his face the image of Hashem. And so when you look at any person you must have respect. When I was in Slabodka, they refused to call a goy a sheigetz; a sheigetz means an abomination – they refused to say that. We never called a goy a sheigetz because it is a contradiction to the doctrine of the glory of Mankind’s greatness. And that is what the Mishnah says, חביב אדם שנברא בצלם – Mankind is cherished by Hashem that He created them in His image. And if we can spread the news to the world, we are doing them a great favor; we are letting them know the message from Hashem, that He looks upon you with a very great affection because you are the image of Hashem.
The fact that a person can ruin that image by wrong emotions; that he can twist his face in wicked grimaces and make his face the opposite of noble, nevertheless if he would learn, if he would be trained, you can take that savage and you can make out of him a noble personality. And he can become a Jew too. But even if he doesn’t become a Jew, he could be become a chassid umos haolam and he will become worthy of chayei Olam Haboh – and that is saying a lot.