The Principle of Reciprocity

When a Jew encounters another, particularly when he comes together with many Jews, he will surely bless them each individually and all of them together as a single community. That blessing will be given with all his “heart, soul and might,” for we are commanded to “love your fellow as yourself.” Furthermore, that blessing will cause the listener to spread blessing and good among the others they meet, as the previous Rebbe declared: “When two Jews meet together, their meeting must produce, not only good for them, but also good for another Jew.

Free translation from a talk of the Rebbe, Purim, 5743 (1983), (excerpt)

As soon as one becomes aware of the existence of another Jew, the first thing is to realize that this is not merely circumstantial. Rather, this is by divine providence, and it is certain that these two elements are at play: 1) that he can thereby gain something from the existence of the other Jew who he has become aware of, and 2) that there is probably some way in which he can also help the other Jew. This is because the entire order of creation is set up such that there shall be no recipient who is merely a recipient, and no giver who is merely a giver … no wealthy person who is merely wealthy, and no poor person who is merely poor. As the sages tell us, just as the wealthy person bestowes something upon the poor person, so the poor person bestows upon the wealthy person. On the contrary, “more than the householder provides to the pauper is provided by the pauper to the householder.” (Vayikrah rabbah, 34:8.) And just as this is so with charity in its normative sense, so is it also in the case of spiritual charity … One person’s role is to help another spiritually, another’s role is to help people physically, as The Code of Jewish Law tells us, “Everyone is obligated by the commandment to give charity, even a pauper.” (Yoreh de’ah, 248:1.)

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Sichot Kodesh 5731, Vol. 2 (Brooklyn, NY, 1987), 339-340. This translation was amended according to the recording of the original audio, available here.

Happiness Depends on Reciprocity

I received your letter of May 15th with pleasure, and enjoyed reading about your interest in the teachings of Hasidism, [and] certain details of your thoughts about it, especially regarding joy … With regard to the conclusion of your letter—in which you write that the redemption cannot be complete until “the needy disappear from the earth” (Cf. Deuteronomy, 15:11) and all people work collectively, with mutual responsibility [and] without poor and wealthy—I do not concur with your opinion, because the nature of a person is that a feeling of true happiness comes to a person when he is able to do something for the good of another, and this is only possible when one is rich and the second is poor. However, this does not contradict your valid complaint regarding the injustice of the massive divide. And as it is explained in the teachings of Hasidism, every creation, if only it acts in concert with its telos, is not merely a recipient but also a giver. Meaning that if one is poor in a given respect, one is rich in another respect … Even regarding the Creator and manager of the world our Torah tells us that it is as if He is sometimes a recipient and not only a provider … as the sages said, “toil for the needs of the Supernal One.”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Igrot Kodesh, Viol. 13 (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 1989), 234. Cf. Meir Ibn Gabai, Avodat Hakodesh, Shaar ha’avodah, 1.

Reciprocity in Torah Study

When someone who is wealthy in Torah helps someone who is poor in Torah … the eyes of both are illuminated (Talmud bavli, Temurah, 16a) … This implies far more than the dictum of the sage, “I learned much from my teachers, from by friends more than from my teachers, and from my students more than from all of them.” (Ibid., Taanit, 7a.) The latter dictum refers to what the individual learns in accord with their own ability, as implied by the language “I learned.” By contrast the guarantee of the sages in the former dictum, that “the eyes of both are illuminated by G‑d” … refers to illumination in accord with the ability of G‑d, which is obviously immeasurably greater. My intention here is [to make clear] … that [in this case] the abrogation of Torah study itself perpetuates Torah study, for thereby one’s heart and mind are made a thousand times more refined, such that in a short span of time you will be immeasurably more successful in your studies.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Igrot Kodesh, Vol. 4 (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 1987), 480-1.

Reciprocity Between Man, Wife, and G‑d

When one thinks of one’s wife, one must always recall that the entire collective of the Jewish people (kneset yisra’el) … is referred to as the wife of the King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He. When one beseeches G‑d that He shall conduct himself with his … beloved in a manner that fulfills the desires of their hearts for good, it is well known that the arousal from above [i.e. from G‑d] depends on the arousal from below, therefore one must conduct himself in the same way in relation to one’s own wife, as the Talmud says: “Honor her more than your own self.” (Talmud bavli, Yevamot, 62b.) This is especially the case as we stand at the end of the era of exile and the complete redemption is close … at which time “the female shall transcend the male.” (Cf. Jeremiah, 31:21.) This itself brings about a sense of honor and care relative to one’s wife … Even if she has a flaw it is often the case that it actually stems from a flaw in the husband’s conduct, which turns her into “the wife of a bandit” (Talmud yerushalmi, Ketubot, 2:9), but she can also become “the wife of a scholar who is like a scholar” (Talmud bavli, Shevu’ot, 30b).

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Likutei Sichot, Vol. 38 (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 2000), 188.