Networking in Light of Jewish Sources

We all have an extensive network of connections. The question is how many of these are “obligatory” relationships? How many of them are win-win relationships? And how many of them are real friends we just enjoy being with? Jewish tradition suggests a unique way to distinguish between the three types of relationships in order to make sure that we surround ourselves with a healthy network.

Based on a fascinating discussion that addresses the question of what is the most important verse in the Bible (Ein Yaakov, Introduction), we understand that Jewish tradition distinguishes between three types of relationships: one is between man and his fellow man, the second is between man and God, and the third is between man and himself. The most familiar claim is made by 6 58 Rabbi Akiva, that the verse “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is the most important verse in the Bible because it expresses the importance of the connection between man and his fellow man. Ben Pazi (3rd century sage) argues that the verse “The one lamb thou shall offer in the morning” (Num. 28:4) is the most important verse in the Bible, because it encapsulates the connection between man and God. On the other hand, Ben Azzai (2nd century sage) believes that the verse “This is the book of the generations of Man” (Gen. 5:1) is the most important because it reminds us of a relationship that is no less significant, the relationship between man and himself. Now we will briefly examine each of these types of relationships through the three layers that constitute each relationship:

Three existing relationships

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1. Between man and his fellow man

Concerning the relationship of the individual to others, the first layer is the layer that is based on necessary relationships. I need you and you need me so that everyone can realize himself. It’s a necessity for existence. In Hebrew, the number seven 7( עַ בֶ ׁש – (from the root עַ בֹש [satisfy] symbolizes this level, where people need each other to “satisfy” their needs. The second layer is a layer of reciprocal relations.

 

Beyond the network of necessary connections, it is good for me to be in a relationship with you and it is good for you to be in a relationship with me in order to explore more opportunities and expand them. The numeral symbolizes] – fatׁ [שָ מֵ ן root the fromׁ – שְ מֹונֶ ה (8 (eight this level, where people expand [“fatten”] their basket of opportunities. Just like the main course of a meal provides satiety (the seventh level), the dessert (the eighth level) is meant to prolong the meal, to continue to share more things. In business, these relationships are known as a ‘win-win situation’. And the third layer is a relationship of emotional closeness.

People who meet for reasons that extend beyond the needs of the day. We spend time together not because we must (7), and not because we have “fat” (8) opportunities to exploit together, but because it is good for our souls to spend time together. The number nine (9) עַ שֵ ׁת ּderived from the Hebrew root of the word, 60 relationships the symbolizes), play toׁ -ַ ש ע ׁש ע , להִ ׁשְ ּתַ עֲ ׁשֵ ע) with friends with whom we conduct long hours of conversation, even after dessert (9).

 

Can you name five such people in your life? Look at your Whatsapp. A very healthy practice is to map out the last 10 points of contact in a three-circle format to find out where the center of your life is. Maybe it’s even a good time to invest in those “soul friends” at the ninth level.

In Jewish thought, the three layers mentioned above are the same three layers that also dictate the nature of the connection between man and God. Hence, many of the Jewish philosophers addressed the question “Why does the Creator of the world need us at all?” Here are some of the answers, in concise form. According to the Ramchal (Italian ethicist, philosopher, and poet 18th century) in his book Daat Tavunot: The assumption is that the Creator of the world wants to bring goodness into the world, and therefore He “needed” a subject who would benefit from His goodness. Quite similar is the position of Nachmanides, who defines man’s mission on earth as improving the creations of the Creator by exploiting the resources He puts at our disposal (Genesis I, 28). We need God’s creations in order to generate electricity from the sun and to build smartphone microprocessors 61 from silicon resources. And God needs us in order to constantly upgrade the first prototype he gave us 15,75 billion years ago.

 

It’s a relationship based on necessity. (level 7) A second answer, also proposed by the Ramchal, is that the Creator has a direct interest that we attribute to Him the honor He is worthy of. This is the perspective found, for example, in one of our prayers [the prayer beginning אבו ןויצל לאוג ,[which states, “Blessed be our God who created us for His glory.” For example, people who spread Godly ideas and principles throughout the world are given the opportunity to become better individuals living a more meaningful life by adopting ethical principles. This is a reciprocal relationship with a “mutual gain” between the Creator and His creatures (level 8).

 

A third possibility is presented by Maimonides (Spain, 12th century): The relationship between man and his Creator is neither a relationship of direct need nor of mutual interest, but rather a relationship that is an exalted encounter which is pure pleasure, without any profit motive. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:1) reflects a vision where God is currently “alone” in holiness and is only waiting for man to join this encounter which transcends the needs of life. And this is the idea contained in the metaphorical prayer that the Creator composed to Himself in saying, 62 “May it Thy will that they will build a house for Me in this place” so that the Creator might metaphorically meet man down on earth (Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms 33: 3).

According to this opinion, life is a game in which we have to “play” by the same rules in order to meet at some meaningful level. From the outset, the vision is to achieve a soul-to-soul meeting with man (level 9).

2. Between man and God

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3. Between man and himself

As for a person’s connection with himself, again we refer to those same three layers.

The seventh level speaks of a person who “survives” in this world and only seeks to earn a living. He thinks in terms of “שבע ,“how he can “satisfy” his needs and desires. Above that is the 63 eighth level.

The same person who aims to achieve a “fat” status, that is, a search for honor, title, power or social status.

And finally, the person at the ninth level. The individual whose main occupation is selffulfillment.

 

This one constantly strives to make progress in the life projects that really matter. It can be creating an artistic composition that reflects a personality, experiencing things that provide enjoyment to the soul, spending valuable time with family and friends, completing a milestone in a life project, learning new things to expand horizons, or even helping others to achieve their vision.

It is interesting to meet the same distinction – though more detailed – in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to the founder of humanistic psychology, man can either live in order to satisfy his most basic needs (rows 1 + 2), to search for esteem and ego (rows 3 + 4). Or he can strive for a higher purpose: self-actualization, realizing his full potential (row 5).

The Conclusion

As for a person’s connection with himself, again we refer to those same three layers. The seventh level speaks of a person who “survives” in this world and only seeks to earn a living. He thinks in terms of “שבע ,“how he can “satisfy” his needs and desires. Above that is the 63 eighth level.

 

The same person who aims to achieve a “fat” status, that is, a search for honor, title, power or social status. And finally, the person at the ninth level. The individual whose main occupation is selffulfillment. This one constantly strives to make progress in the life projects that really matter.

It can be creating an artistic composition that reflects a personality, experiencing things that provide enjoyment to the soul, spending valuable time with family and friends, completing a milestone in a life project, learning new things to expand horizons, or even helping others to achieve their vision.

 

It is interesting to meet the same distinction – though more detailed – in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to the founder of humanistic psychology, man can either live in order to satisfy his most basic needs (rows 1 + 2), to search for esteem and ego (rows 3 + 4). Or he can strive for a higher purpose: self-actualization, realizing his full potential (row 5).