Relating to another person with the pronoun “you” directly and honestly is the foundation of our relationships with others. Major problems within relationships are created when we come to relate to others as “he” or as “she,” thereby minimizing their personhood into something limited and confined instead of engaging in dialogue with them.
When we attempt to flee from addressing others as “you”—relating to them instead in the third person—it might be because we feel threatened by them. Every individual has the experience that he or she alone truly exists. This is the nature of our psychology. We feel, “I am in the center and everyone else surrounds me, perhaps even revolves around me, and can only be measured as they relate to me.” Making another person present and focusing on him or her requires me to be more flexible with my opinions about them and to shatter imaginary stigmas I might hold. By doing so, I can relate to the other person’s true being—as an individual with a unique will and opinions.
The foundational verses that delineate how we should relate to others are:
You shall not go as a talebearer in your people, do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor, I am God. You shall not hate your brother in your heart—you shall rebuke your colleague and you shall not bear sin because of him. You shall not take revenge nor bear a grudge against your fellow compatriots, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.
Tale bearing turns others into a “he” or a “she,” into an object about which we speak with estrangement. The Torah relates that before Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, “they could not speak to him in peace.” Instead of turning to Joseph directly, as “you,” his brothers referred to him as “he” (the other). This paved the way for them to eventually sell him.
By contrast, in order to eliminate hatred harbored in the heart, to fight the feeling of “what he did to me,” the Torah commands us to address the other directly: “You shall rebuke your colleague.” Address the other directly, even intimately, with a feeling of closeness and equality. In this manner, even your rebuke will open hearts. The Hebrew words that mean “rebuke your colleague” (הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת עֲמִיתֶךָ) can also be understood as meaning “make your colleague present” (הַנְכֵּחַ תַּנְכִּיחַ). Turn to him and do not bear sin because of him. Do not speak about him from a distance or behind his back.
True love of our fellow requires us to leave our egos behind. It means freeing up time, thoughts, and emotions to focus on honestly turning to our fellow as “you.” This focus on someone else displays faith in him and exposes his inner essence, his true “you”—his soul, which is expressed in his positive desires.
Clearly, turning directly to someone else is not meant to nullify my existence. On the contrary, the ability to address someone else as “you” is predicated on my own being. When we relate to someone else with honesty and honor, we build reciprocity and equality and we reveal our inner essence. When we see the true “you,” we simultaneously reassess our own self, revealing the true “me.”
Our souls are literally a part of God. When we turn directly to our fellows, we reveal their inner essence and we reveal God, as He is present inside them. In this way, direct communication with our fellow humans dovetails with direct communication with God as present and manifest in our lives. “I place God before me always” (שִׁוִּיתִי הוי' לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד) in all my relationships.
. Leviticus 19:16-18.
. See Arachin 16b.
. Psalms 16:8.