In the previous article, we left off with the question: If I want to build and facilitate a relationship with the Infinite, how do I do that? How does one create a relationship with a Being that is Infinite?
Here is where the Kabbalists kick in.
As we have mentioned previously, one of the foundational ideas of Kabbalah is that everything in the physical realm is a physical parallel and projection of something in the spiritual realm. In fact, the word Kabbalah shares its root with the Hebrew word for “parallel,” makbil, since the study of the Kabbalah teaches how to see the physical realm as parallel to the spiritual realm.
Therefore, if I want to understand how to build and facilitate a relationship, association, and affiliation with the Infinite Being, I’m going to study relationships in our world – interpersonal relationships – for the purpose of pulling out principles about the nature of relationships and applying those principles to my relationship with the Infinite. After all, all of the relationships in my life are merely parallels and parables for the ultimate relationship in my life – my relationship with the Infinite.
We will now take a look at a number of principles regarding interpersonal relationships and examine how these principles are actually rooted in, and applicable to, one’s relationship with the Infinite.
Principle 1: Relationship Quality
Principle 1 of relationships is that the quality of a relationship depends on one’s ability to choose it, and choosing it means that you have the real ability to destroy it.
Permit me to explain.
The typical example of a relationship one did not choose is the relationship with one’s parents. And that is why, in the healthy Parent-Child relationship, it is the parents that love the child more than the child loves the parents. This is because, when the child is born, the parents give of themselves in order to do everything for the child – they feed him, clothe him, take care of him, etc. And when that child wakes up crying at 4:00 a.m., every parent has a choice to make: “Do I roll over in bed and let my child cry himself back to sleep, or do I drag myself out of bed to take care of him?” During the first couple of weeks it’s easy – of course I drag myself out of bed to take care of the child. But, for the eighteen months that follow, it’s not so easy anymore – that choice becomes a real choice.
And, at that same time following the child’s birth, what is it that the child is consciously giving of himself or doing for the parents?
The parents are consciously giving everything, and the child is consciously giving nothing. And the outcome is that it is the parents who end up loving the child more than the child loves the parents! But if the parent is doing all the giving, and the child is doing all the receiving, how is it that the parents come to love the child more than the child loves the parents?
This question is only a question to our Western-conditioned minds and our Hollywood-brainwashed way of thinking. Only a society that believes joy is something you can buy like candy in a store would put forth that love for another could be generated based on what you receive from that other.
On the contrary, Judaism explains that love is generated as an outgrowth of giving to the other, not receiving from the other.
Now, we’re not talking here about giving a dollar to the guy on the street in order to pacify him as well as your guilt. We’re talking about true giving of self. When you give of yourself, you are investing of yourself and putting of yourself into that other. You come to see a part of yourself and your identity in that other, and ultimately you come to love that other as you love yourself – hence, the verse, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
So, it is your giving of self that is at the root of your love for another. This is hinted to in the word for “love” in Hebrew, ahavah. The root of the word ahavah is the Biblical word hav, which means to “give,” because giving is the root of loving.
Fast-forward twenty-five years.
That child is now twenty-five years old.
If you were to ask him if he’d like to get married some day, his answer would most likely be yes.
However, upon further investigation, it seems that this might not be the most sensible decision. After all, assuming this twenty-five-year-old’s parents fed him, clothed him, and put a roof over his head, why is it that he plans on exchanging the relationship with his parents as the primary relationship in his life in favor of a relationship with a wife, where, if he says to her what he said to his mother, he’s going to be in a heck of a lot of trouble?
Leaving aside the physical aspect of the spousal relationship as well as the societal influences to get married, what is the essential difference in the nature of the relationship between the Parent-Child relationship and the Husband-Wife relationship? What is it that serves as the underlying motivation for one to make the transition from the Parent-Child relationship as the primary relationship in one’s life to the Husband-Wife relationship as primary relationship in one’s life?
I think the key difference is summed up in one word: independence. By “independence,” I do not mean that we assert our independence in the Spousal relationship by choosing the person we want to marry, whereas in the Parent-Child relationship, we were born into it.
Rather, what I mean by independence is that in the Parent-Child relationship (in a healthy situation), the relationship is so stable that it’s almost like it’s not even there – you do good, you get result X; you do bad, you still get result X. At some point, one grows up and matures, and this starts to make him sick. So, he moves away from this relationship as primary in his life to pursue a relationship that is much more delicate – a relationship that, if you do something good, things are going to be great; but that is only because if you do something bad, things are going to get real bad in a hurry. (Contrast this to the healthy Parent-Child relationship where the parents aren’t going to leave you unless you come at them with a chainsaw.) It is only because you have that real possibility of destroying the Spousal relationship by doing bad that it is going to go so much higher when you do good.
So when people talk about wanting a stable relationship, it is not that they want the relationship with their spouse to resemble the relationship with their parents. What they are saying is that they want to take a relationship that starts delicate and make the constant choices toward one another and toward the relationship in order to build this inherently delicate relationship into a stable relationship. This stability will then be their own – it is stability that they built by the choices they made.
Such a relationship is going to be an amazing relationship because the participants constantly have the real opportunity to destroy it, yet constantly still choose it – so it is truly they that make the relationship happen. Such a relationship is built purely upon the independent choices of the participants. And, therefore, such a relationship will be much more elevated and refined than the Parent-Child relationship that is just “given to you.”
Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a sought after cutting edge international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life. His recently released #1 Amazon’s Best Seller, Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism, has won wide acclaim as one of the clearest, most comprehensive, easily accessible, and practical depictions of Kabbalah and the “whys” of Judaism.