Rav Avigdor Miller taught, “As long as the heart and mind are open to see, one can learn from everyday situations and experiences.”
At the end of a two-hour Circle Line cruise, the captain asked that everyone be seated as a precautionary safety measure while the boat was docking. Still, a child of about three continued to happily run around in circles. His father clutched him close to keep him secure, and when the little boy tried to run away, he tightened his arms around him. The little boy, who wanted to continue playing, yelled, “Ouch,” and began to cry.
To the reader and objective observer, the father is loving and caring, protecting the child from possible injury. However, to the child, the father comes across as mean and strict – it’s all a matter of perspective.
Allegorically, perhaps the child is us, Klal Yisrael, in a long and bitter exile. When something painful happens, we scream out in pain, not realizing that Hashem is actually drawing us closer to Him and protecting us from much worse. Over the past few weeks we have cried out so much.
One of the largest issues facing Klal Yisrael today is that we run circles around each other, not connecting on the level that siblings should. We don’t treat every single Jew with the love and respect he or she deserves and when Hashem sees this, it is He Who cries “Ouch,” pained that His children are not getting along.
What Hashem desires most is that we learn to connect with each other as children in the same family. Each of us is created b’tzelem Elokim and that part of us yearns for a connection with another Jew. Now more than ever it is important that we show love and affection for one another, that we continue to develop a sense of achdus.
Becoming closer to each other is another way to become close to Him. Neither is easy to do, butwith siyatta d’Shmaya and a true inner desire, it is possible to overcome the stumbling blocks that keep us apart.
The way we speak with others is an essential part of fostering good relationships. We must go out of our way to avoid causing someone pain. However, it is important to note that there is a major difference between intentionally and unintentionally causing someone pain with words.
By our very natures, we are transmitting stations, sending and receiving the subtlest messages. If disrespect is conveyed, whether to a child or adult, it can cause untold harm for a lifetime. If love, affection or respect is transmitted, it can cause innumerable benefits. For example, a single woman bravely joins a community organization in which the majority of participants are twice her age and married. She can either feel the hidden thoughts of, “nebach case… oy, poor girl… we have to get her married,” or the opposite, “What an amazing woman, she keeps getting involved and helping the community.”
Imagine what it would be like if you were to meet Hillel HaZakein or Rabi Akiva. They were prominent sages who treated everyone with great respect. Regardless of who you were, they would have treated you with the ultimate honor. Hillel taught us to be a disciple of Aharon HaKohen who treated each person with tremendous love and respect, influencing him or her in positive ways. Rabi Akiva was able to see the Divine in every person he met and therefore saw him or her as precious.
However, for us to treat people in this way, we need to see ourselves as precious as well. The only way to love another Jew is to love yourself, because if you can’t love your own piece of Hashem, how can you appreciate another?The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man what is reflected in his own face. Sometimes your biggest enemy is not the person who hurt you; it’s that person you stare at when you look in the mirror. You must love yourself enough to let go of any wrongdoing or anger.