Another principle of interpersonal relationships that can shed light on the manner in which our relationship with God functions is that the level of a relationship is determined by the “lower” of the two participants.
For example, Joe turns to Jane and says, “Jane, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you: I love you. Let’s get married!” And Jane turns back to Joe and says, “Actually, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you too: You make me sick. I want to have nothing to do with you!” Assuming Joe and Jane are both telling the truth, Joe wants the relationship 100%, and Jane wants the relationship 0%.
So, where is this relationship at?
Of course, the relationship is holding steadily at 0% – it’s going nowhere fast. Despite the fact that Joe is totally in love, it is not a loving relationship.
It is not even a friend relationship.
This is because relationships are a two-way street, and therefore, a relationship is only as strong as the one that wants it least. Or, as we stated above, the level of a relationship is determined by the “lower” of the two participants.
Now, in the relationship with the Infinite, it is as if God has “lost control” of the situation. Meaning, God is constantly giving us opportunity after opportunity to build the relationship with Him. So, the question becomes: How much do we choose back to God? To the extent one chooses back to God, he will have a relationship with God. To the extent not, the relationship simply won’t be there.
So, it’s not that there is a Heaven and a Hell. Rather, Heaven and Hell are the same place – it’s just a revelation of reality and your place in it, given your potential and what you did with what you were given.
For some people this is going to be Heaven, and for others not as much.
Heaven & Hell
People think that Heaven is a basketball trophy at the end of a season or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, and that Hell is a burning pit of fire with a devil and pitchfork. But these are unfounded misconceptions that oversimplify spiritual experiences into literal physical imagery.
Instead, I think a better parallel is a fiftieth wedding anniversary party.
The happy couple is sitting side-by-side, and when they look into each other’s eyes, the (amount of) love that they each feel is going to be the experience of the sum total of the choices they made toward the other, minus the missed opportunities and times they chose against each other, thereby constructing a conceptual barrier between the two of them – nothing more, nothing less.
Similarly, the experience of one’s relationship with God is going to be the experience of the sum total of the choices the individual made toward God, minus the missed opportunities and the times he chose against God, thereby constructing a conceptual barrier between him and God.
The Teachings of Torah
It comes out that the level of a relationship is determined by the “lower” of the two participants, and in my relationship with the Infinite, the “lower” of the two participants is me.
This leads me to a very important question: How do I succeed in raising, uplifting, and elevating the level of my relationship with God?
This is what Torah is all about.
The word Torah literally means “teaching.” That is, the Torah is teachings for what life is all about. And, as we have explained, we are here in this life with the opportunity and the drive to get the most pleasure, joy, and happiness out of life. And the most available is to build and facilitate a relationship, association, and affiliation with the Infinite Being. The Torah is therefore the teachings for building and facilitating that relationship, association, and affiliation with the Infinite. It is the instruction book for connecting with God; the roadmap by which I can raise, uplift, and elevate the level of my relationship with the Infinite.
Now, the truth is that every relationship you will ever have has a “torah.” Every relationship has an instruction book outlining what you can do to make the relationship better and what you can do to make the relationship worse. When it comes to some of the teachings in this “torah,” it is easy to understand why they will make things better or make things worse in the relationship. However, when it comes to other teachings in this “torah,” it is difficult to understand why they will make things better or worse.
For example, in my relationship with my wife, it is easy for me to understand that if I show up with roses and a smile it will be good for my relationship, and that if I show up yelling and screaming it will be bad for my relationship. However, why my squeezing the toothpaste from anywhere other than the end of the tube will be bad for my relationship with my wife, I do not have an understanding of as of yet.
If this is the case when it comes to my relationship with my closest, dearest life partner, how much more is this the case when it comes to my relationship with the Infinite.
This is the Torah’s function.
Just as the “torahs” of my interpersonal relationships are the instructional manuals outlining how to advance my interpersonal relationships, the Torah is the instructional manual outlining how to advance my relationship with God. To the extent I am involved with learning, understanding, internalizing, and fulfilling Torah, it is to that extent that I will actualize the potential available to me to build my relationship with God. After all, as we have said, in every relationship, the level of a relationship depends on the “lower” of the two participants, and in my relationship with the Infinite, the “lower” of the two is me.
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.