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By Larry Fine
Relating is something we take for granted. We know to whom we are related to and how we are related, but at this point we stop our understanding of the concept of relating.
It may sound strange, but understanding relating is a very important principle in being. If you can not relate to something you are lacking. You must realize that you are part of the world, you are part of a microcosm that includes you and everything in it. You are not a detached individual; if you think that you are, you are heading for trouble.
Let us take an example of three types of relating when something negative happens, as it frequently does. How do we relate it? How should we relate to it? How can we relate to it?
The scenario is some one is bothering you. Perhaps the irritation is from talking too loud, perhaps banging on something, playing music too loud or one of a million other possibilities of unwanted and bothersome interference in our daily lives. Either the neighbor, the child, the guy over there or even Mother Nature can initiate discomfort. It is always true that there is an absolute and concrete cause.
The common manner of relating cause to effect is to blame the perpetrator. He/she/it did this and therefore I suffer because of it. The instigator of the annoyance is blamed for the discomfort. This is the most common manner of relating to hassles and annoyances.
Others will take a more sophisticated approach. If I am annoyed, therefore there must be something inside of me that is not one hundred percent perfect. It follows that I must "work" on myself to improve overcome this obvious character flaw. True the neighbor, the child, the what ever, did such and such an annoying act, but that I should feel discomfort and react in a negative manner means a lacking in myself, therefore I must improve. This is known as the "mussar" or ethical movement philosophy. This type appears to be the way of the righteous since the person himself feels righteous about it. After all he/she is striving to improve!
There is yet a third manner of relating. This is by saying and seeing that everything really comes from G-d. It may be true, the neighbor, child, or whatever, has caused me discomfort, but I must realize that nothing in the world can happen unless G-d Himself agrees that such an action should take place. No person is capable of accomplishing any action unless G-d allows him to be successful. That does not mean that there is no free will. There certainly is, and the person who causes damage to his friend is certainly accountable, but it could never happen unless G-d agrees that this should happen.
Based on this premise, we realize that yes, the neighbor, child, or who ever, did cause me discomfort. He may be inconsiderate or worse, and he is responsible for his actions. However, I must realize that if G-d permitted such an action to happen that I be discomforted or annoyed; there must be a reason. If I can understand the reason that G-d permitted this to happen then I have realized my relationship in the world and with G-d.
When we begin to view the world in this manner, we become more spiritual. Since we can not transcend the physical, we must relate to it. If we relate to everything in the world as just material mass, cause and effect, then we fall into the trap of viewing the world only in relation to its material aspect. But if we relate to it as an extension of G-d, then we are on our way to coming closer to G-d and to actually seeing the secrets of the upper worlds down here on earth.
from the May 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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