Berakhot19b states, “Come and learn: Human dignity is so important that it supersedes even a biblical prohibition.” The immediate question one might ask is, “Why is human dignity so important that it supersedes a biblical prohibition?” The value ofk’vod habriyot, or honoring humanity, demands that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and is valued. If all of humanity were created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of G-d, it is imperative that everyone is treated as such.
Rabbinic law places great emphasis on ensuring the voice of everyone in making a decision, and tradition teaches us that all of Israel – all of humanity – was present at the giving of Torah at Sinai. By including everyone, it ensures that all of humanity is treated with the honor they have a right to. In Pirke Avot 4:1, we learn that one who is honored is one who treats others and G-d with honor. So, too, it is imperative that all people, regardless of race or creed, are accepted and respected. In other words, an additional element of the value of k'vod habriyotis the importance of appreciating each other's differences.
While humanity all was created in the same mold, it does not mean that each person is identical to the other. In fact, being created b'tzelem elohim challenges us to embrace what makes each person unique. When we demonstrate respect to others as we would want for ourselves, we can best learn from each other and celebrate the diversity of beliefs and opinions that shape who we are as human beings.