In fact, he says this is one of the key reasons for interacting with other people:
to receive their light and to shine your own light on them.
And the way to do this is by doing 2 things:
- focus on their good points and allow them to focus on your good points
- speak in fear of Heaven
On page 376, Vol I, Rav Bender quotes Rebbe Nachman from Likutei Moharan:
The entire matter of talking with friends is as the Rebbe writes in Lesson 34:
"Each person should speak to his friend in fear of Heaven. In order to receive inspiration from his friend's special point that he doesn't have...This point is the aspect of 'Tzaddik' relative to his friend. It shines to the other's heart."
This is the whole point of speaking among friends:
To unearth and illuminate your friend's unique good points.
And to shine to him from your special point.
But not more than this...For there is no one around now who has the power to hear another's secrets without causing him to feel down.
It can make him discouraged. The benefit is outweighed by the loss.
Many times, I've been impressed or touched by another person.
It doesn't matter that the person isn't a tzaddik--or maybe the person is even far from being a tzaddik. There is still something about them that touches you. Even as you see their negative behaviors and the mistakes they make, there's some aspect of sympathy due to their good points.
Probably you've experienced a similar dynamic with people with whom you've interacted.
And this also explains a lot about our close family relationships.
With children, for example, we see their not-so-great traits and even feel driven nuts by them at times, yet at the same time, we feel like they're so special and we really believe in their potential and their future.
Their light shines on us as parents.
And I think this explains another dynamic, a negative one.
Yet how can they shine light on you in the right amounts and best quality when they refuse to absorb light from others?
Their refusal to receive affects the amount and quality of their own light, making it weaker than it should be.
And I think this may be why it feels so dehumanizing to be around them. They start blinding you with their own light (which is of limited size and quality), yet when your light starts to shine out on them, it's like they throw up a shield to block you.
So it's as if they're the only source of light while you're reduced to just a dark blob of tohu.
Yet it's not true. You're not just some lightless blob.
You've got beautiful light of your own!
The exchange of light needs to happen for both your sakes.
How Might the Exchange of Light Work?
Let's say you possess a beautiful yellow light. Then you meet someone with a beautiful blue light.
When you shine your light on each other and the exchange occurs, then you absorb their blue light, which also creates a green light (yellow+blue=green).
Also, your light increases due to the influence of the other's light.
So the next person you encounter gains from your previous exchange because not only do you have your own yellow light to shine on them, but you have some of the blue light absorbed from the previous exchange, plus some green light created by that exchange.
And you also further gain from whatever light that person has to offer.
So in order for the exchange to occur properly, you must be ready to receive and not only give.
The Power of Receiving Light
Actually, any Torah you learn sculpts you into a receptacle of the best-quality light and however much you internalize it, all the better (even if you aren't tzaddik or gadol).
As humble scholars, they absorb the light of Rashi, of Rebbe Akivah, of Moshe Rabbeinu, and many more.
As humble people, they receive the light of those they meet and possess tremendous light to shine on others.
True Story #1
For example, my husband and I went for an energy treatment from a frum man who could also see auras. He explained how he'd been trying to heal a problem he spotted in his daughter's aura, but wasn't able.
Yet upon attending a Torah shiur by a genuine talmid chacham, either Rav Elyashiv or Rav Ganz (he couldn't remember which), he noticed a beautiful golden light emanating from the rav during the shiur. As the shiur continued, the frum man watched as this beautiful golden light expanded up and out from the rav, expanding further until it enveloped all those present.
When the shiur ended, this man still felt the effects of this golden aura and upon arriving home, he decided to try healing his daughter's aura again. This time, he was successful.
But he attributes this healing to the light he received from the great talmid chacham, and not his own abilities.
True Story #2
I can't see auras at all, but even before I knew anything about auras, I remember sitting in a rebbetzin's class and sensing an energy from her that expanded up and then settled back on her when she finished the class. And not just one time either, but most times I sat in her class. I was also very influenced by her; she has had a profound impact on my hashkafah. She's one of the more popular teachers out there, and many people find it very easy to stay present and not daydream during her classes, which are never boring. She's a very learned person and when she teaches, she's absorbed in the Torah sources & concepts.
I think she's giving out a certain energy without even realizing it.
True Story #3
Finally, I noticed that sitting with other mothers in the park as a group was not so enjoyable for me. Something always felt "off," even though everyone was very nice.
But when I sat with any woman one-on-one and the conversation took a more spiritual turn, then I always felt a profound influence and connection from her.
For example, I found myself sitting on a bench next to a well-off woman who obviously invested a lot in her appearance and her home decor. We were chatting small talk and then I accidentally mentioned how bad I felt about myself compared to other people, based on things others had said to me.
Immediately, I regretted having made myself vulnerable in such a way, especially to such a "perfect" lady. Why couldn't I restrain myself better?
Yet she turned to face me and looked deeply into my eyes, and started giving me chizuk by explaining that such people were like balloons of air that deflate with the smallest prick of a pin, and therefore, I need not take their "insights" to heart.
She backed up her words by quoting Mishlei (Proverbs). This happened over a decade ago, but I still remember it because she spoke from her heart to my heart.
Most of all, I remember how I felt like I'd been rebuilt because of her heartfelt caring, even though we barely knew each other. It was true chizuk (strengthening) because I indeed felt like a crumbling building that had suddenly become fortified by her words and her concern.
I really feel the truth of Rav Bender's words: When you talk with another Jew in words of Torah and chizuk (and neither of you needs to be a talmid chacham or a tzaddik at all!), you truly absorb their light.
Let God Facilitate the Exchange of Light
Meaning, you can't decide what kind of light the other person needs. You can't decide that what you're giving them is light (maybe you think it's lovely light but they receive it as eviscerating fire) or that it's the type of light they need. That's up to Hashem.
(Like maybe you've got red and blue light to give and they need your red light because they've already got tons of blue light, but you in your great ego believe that they need your blue light -- metaphorically speaking, of course. Either way, you need to allow the exchange to happen without meddling with it too much.)
And I think that it's not enough to just see the good point; you need to admire it in order to absorb its light.
Meaning, it's not enough to feel a half-hearted, "Oh, she's nothing special and not so smart, but at least she's okay with her kids."
It's better to really look at how dedicated she is to her kids (even if she's still impatient or fed-up at times), and really admire how much she's willing to stretch herself for their sakes.
Even if you're overall better than another person, perhaps they contain a facet that outshines one of your facets in the same area.
For example, I knew someone who emoted a lot and loudly, which wore out others, yet she was an incredible baalat chessed and performed the chessed in a purposeful wholehearted manner.
So maybe you're calmer and more considerate of others than she, but you can also admire how she's willing to frequently babysit the difficult children of a mentally ill mother during their parents' divorce -- a chessed you admire, but maybe aren't able to take on yourself.
Of course, the core concept of possessing "light" and the necessity to both shine light on others and be shined upon by others -- that's from Rav Bender. That's a fact.
However, the conjecturing and metaphors of how that all might work is just based on my own stuff, like what I've read and observed as described above.
So I'll leave you with Rav Bender's words from page 377:
It is possible to relate to everyone equally without giving precedence.
Because they each have a special point.
There is no reason to know about the bad. If so -- all are equal.
It is possible to love and honor every Jew. The benefit from this is tremendous.
And whatever progress you can make in this direction is very precious.
Human Interaction & The Secret of Light