An Ugly Vessel

by Lois Tverberg

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

If we know that God created each one of us in his image, what are the implications of how we should live? An ancient rabbinic parable gives an answer:

A great rabbi was traveling along one day on his donkey. There he chanced to meet an exceedingly ugly man who greeted him, “Peace be upon you, rabbi.” He, however, did not return his greeting but instead said to him, “Racca (empty one or good for nothing) how ugly you are! Is everyone in your town as ugly as you are?” The man replied, “I do not know, but go and tell the craftsman who made me, ‘How ugly is the vessel which you have made.'” When the rabbi realized that he had sinned, he dismounted from the donkey and prostrated himself before the man and said to him, “I submit myself to you, forgive me!”

Feet shaping clay

The point is this – that any time we insult someone, we are not just defaming him, but the God who made him. After all, he is the one who designed and fashioned him according to his specifications. Even more importantly, if our creator made each human being to reflect his own image, when we call another “ugly”, we are insulting God himself. Imagine if God were a great artist who painted a portrait of himself on every person – it would be like calling God a poor artist, and ugly too. Certainly that will make us reconsider our negative opinions of others, when we realize that we are looking at God’s own handiwork, and a reflection of God himself.

(1) B. Talmud, Ta’an. 20a-b1, quoted by Brad Young in The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation, Hendrickson, 1998.

Photo: Pp391