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The Rebbe's View of Human Interaction

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

I recently came upon a video in which Rabbi David Lapin describes his encounter with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, in 1976. At the time, Rabbi Lapin was involved in both business and had a role as a community Rabbi and outreach personality in the South African Jewish community. He was finding the demands of both these endeavors overwhelming and went to seek the Rebbe’s sage advice.

The Rebbe advised him to continue and even increase his communal involvement and simultaneously to continue with his business endeavors. Rabbi Lapin expressed that this was unrealistic and that he was not even coping adequately with the current situation. The Rebbe then turned to him and said that he understood Rabbi Lapin’s problem. He explained to Rabbi Lapin that his difficulty was that he viewed human interaction incorrectly and explained as follows:
You (Rabbi Lapin) view human interaction like a chemical reaction. Two elements interact and form a combined third element. Human interaction does not work this way. Human interaction is not a chemical reaction. Human interaction is a nuclear reaction! A nuclear reaction reverberates out from the core of the explosion in all directions. When you touch just one person’s heart that is a nuclear reaction. Thousands of people are impacted and influenced by that one person during their lifetime.

The key to extending one’s circle of influence lies not in directly influencing masses of people. The key is to provide enough energy and attention to each individual interaction to create a nuclear reaction which will then in turn impact the lives of thousands of people.

We are now in the period know as Bein Hametzarim between the seventeenth day of Tammuz and the ninth day of Av. Let us resolve to counter the baseless hatred that caused the destruction of our temple by focusing on giving those with whom we come into contact our fullest attention, support and kindness. May these interactions fuel the nuclear reaction needed for the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash and the restoration of peace and harmony throughout the world.