In order to apply last week’s principle that similarity breeds relationship to our relationship with God, we are going to want to figure out what God is “about” in terms of how God expresses Himself to us. Figuring that out will steer us in the right direction and equip us with the knowledge necessary in order to align ourselves with and make ourselves similar to God by way of our expressing that same trait…
While it is true that since God is Infinite, which is totally beyond the limited finite experience of any human being, He is therefore unfathomable to us, that does not mean that we can’t get a “glimpse” into God and know things about God in terms of how He sets up the world, runs the world, and relates to us. Indeed, while it is true that one cannot grasp God 100%, the fact is that one cannot grasp anyone – even one’s spouse – 100%. Rather, one understands something about one’s spouse based on how the spouse relates to him or her (as well as others), and it is that part of one’s spouse that one interacts, connects, and has a relationship with.
So, what are the traits with which God relates to us? What has God showed Himself to be about?
Well, what do we know about God so far?
We see that God is Infinite and there is, therefore, nothing I can do for Him. He creates us in a world and gives us a brain to figure out that He exists, thereby setting up a system in which I can achieve the ultimate in pleasure, joy, and happiness by creating and facilitating a relationship with Him.
This is the greatest giving act that there could be – God gives me the ultimate (i.e. the opportunity to build a relationship with Him) and there’s nothing He “takes” back.
It comes out that God is the “Ultimate Giver.”
Therefore, if I want to build my relationship with God, and if, in order to do that, I am going to want to become similar to God, I am going to do whatever I can to turn myself into as much of a giver as possible.
At first glance this sounds selfish.
After all, we are saying here that I should give because that will be what is best for me. However, upon reflection it becomes clear that every successful relationship you will ever be a part of will begin with radical self-interest.
Think about it.
You come home from a first date and tell your roommate that you had a good time and that you’re planning on going out again with this person. Your roommate responds by asking, “Is that for your good or for the good of your date?”
What do you answer?
Well, if you are going to be honest, you’d reply by saying that you are motivated to go out with this person again because you think that’s what will be best for you.
The relationship progresses…
One day, you come home and announce to your roommate that the two of you are engaged. Again, the roommate asks you, “Is that for your good or for the good of your fiancé?”
This time you may be more inclined to reply by saying that it is for the good of both of you. But if you get down to it, while you may hope it is for your fiancé’s good as much as it is for your good, the bottom line is that you are motivated to marry this person because you think that will be best for you.
Fast-forward to the wedding.
There you are under the wedding canopy. Your spouse-to-be turns to you and says, “We are about to get married and spend the rest of our lives together – are you doing this for your good or are you doing this for my good?”
Now, what do you respond to this?
“My good? No, I don’t think I’m going to get anything out of this. I’m doing this for you.”
That answer is definitely not gonna fly!
We see from this that everyone under the wedding canopy wants to know that the person standing across from them is doing what they are doing because they think it’s going to be best for themselves.
And that’s the way it has to be.
After all, if someone sees himself as doing a favor for the person he’s marrying by marrying them, their relationship is probably not going to fare too well.
Rather, every healthy, successful relationship has to start the way of radical self-interest. And then, gradually, the relationship will hopefully progress from the couple doing the right thing for the wrong reason to doing the right thing for the right reason. At first the giving will be rooted in the self-interest of what they are going to get out of the giving, and then, hopefully, each participant in the relationship works on him- or herself, refines his or her perspective, and comes to personify the trait of giving.
At that point, giving won’t be an act they are each doing; it will be a trait they each personify.
Interestingly, we find that Avraham (Abraham) merited to become the father of the Jewish people for this exact reason.
Avraham was all about kindness and giving. He searched after guests and had openings on all four sides of his tent as if to say to passersby that they are welcome to drop in. And when the guests would come in, he would give them the best of the physical and the best of the spiritual – he’d offer them the finest foods as well as teaching them about God and the opportunity to have a relationship with Him. (In a sense, Avraham gave his guests what God has given humanity – God created the human being with the opportunity to gain the ultimate, which is a relationship with Him, and Avraham taught humanity about God and the availability of this opportunity.)
The reason why Avraham merits being the father of the Jewish people is not simply because he figures out that there is one God, as is commonly believed. The truth is that figuring out that there is One Infinite Being is something that anyone can do. And, in fact, the awareness of the One Infinite Being was already in the world – both before Avraham’s time (for example, Adam and Noah, as well as others, spoke with God) and during Avraham’s time (Avraham’s lifetime actually overlapped with that of Noah’s).
What separated Avraham from the rest of the pack was that Avraham was able to take that knowledge of the Infinite and say, “Okay, so there is a God. So what difference does that make to my life? How is that going to affect me? How am I going to build my life around this knowledge and awareness?”
It is this that Judaism is really all about.
Judaism is about figuring out what reality is and applying that knowledge and awareness to one’s life in a real way. Everything in Judaism, including Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah, begins at this point. Each of us is here with the inner capacity and drive to achieve the ultimate, which is to build and facilitate our relationship, association, and affiliation with the Infinite Being.
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.