To introduce the creation of man, the Torah says, “VaYomer Elokim Naaseh Adam BeTzalmeinu KiDemuteinu,” “And God said, ‘Let us make a man in our image, as our likeness.’” (Bereishit 1:26) The Midrash explains that this Pasuk uses the plural Naaseh because God consulted the Malachim (angels) before creating man.
The Midrash states that when Moshe was writing the Torah, he saw this Pasuk and he asked Hashem, “Why are You creating an opportunity for people who don’t believe in You to find support for their opinions in this Pasuk, which seems to imply the existence of multiple gods, Chas VeShalom?” Hashem answered that he should leave the Pasuk the way it is and let anyone who wants to err do so. Hashem said to do this because in the future, there would be a leader who would think that he could make decisions without consulting his subordinates and his subordinates would be able to say that if Hashem consulted the Malachim, that leader should consult them too (BeReishit Rabbah 8:8).
Based on this Midrash, the Chanukat HaTorah explains the saying of Chazal that arrogance is like idol worship. One can interpret “Naaseh Adam” in two ways—that it is an expression of humility which Hashem showed by consulting the angels, or that it indicates the presence of other gods. A person who chooses to be arrogant will deny that Hashem went out of his way to show that humility is important; therefore, he will infer from this Pasuk that other gods exist, which is Avodah Zarah.
Rav Elchanan Wasserman finds this Midrash puzzling. In a business venture, would someone risk a large amount of money for a small profit? Obviously not; the risk and reward have to be somewhat in balance. So too, why would Hashem create a situation where someone could mistakenly conclude that other gods exist, just to teach the lesson of humility? This is a case where the risks seem to heavily outweigh the rewards.
Rav Elchanan explains that for years, people have learned this Pasuk and not believed that other gods exist. The Pasuk does not imply that there are other gods; it is clearly saying that Hashem only consulted his angels out of common courtesy. Only people who are looking to deny Hashem’s existence can understand this Pasuk as saying that there are other gods. This is what the Midrash means when it says that if people want to err they can—they are looking to err, so there is nothing Moshe can do to prevent it. This also means that the risk-to-reward proportion is greatly in Hashem’s favor. The vast majority of people will be able to learn the message of humility from the Pasuk and only a very few, for whom nothing can be done anyway, will perceive the wrong message.
Prepared by Devorah Abenhaim