25 Kislev 5778 / Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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The Mirror Principle    

The Mirror Principle

When seemingly negative traits in other people annoy us so much, it is because we embody the trait we dislike in the other person and we need to correct…


The Mirror Principle, as explained by the Ba’al Shem Tov, has many practical applications. This universal tenet can help us get out of our comfort zone and into a growth phase without too much prodding by Hashem. So what is the Mirror Principle? Essentially it is that our life experiences constitute a mirror---a reflection of two things---(1) How our actions are affecting the heavens above---whether what we do is having a positive or negative effect, and (2) How we are coming across to others. The concept of the mirror is one way in which Hashem, sometimes in an innocuous way, instructs and guides us. So if there is a pending stern judgment Above, Hashem lets us know below---down here on earth.


Here is an example:  If a young lady is spending too much time shopping and not enough time in the home, the excess is recorded and judged by the Heavenly Court. Then one day she happens to slip at the mall. The ripple effect of the excess preoccupation and indulgence that was noted in Shamayim (Heaven) was felt here on earth and reflected in the problematic occurrence below. The response of a spiritually aware individual would be to thank Hashem. The young lady may have gotten a little dirty, but, hopefully, she did not break a bone. She then decided to do an accounting of her use of time. All of us would benefit from developing our spiritual awareness and asking ourselves the important question, “What can we learn from this?” when an interruption occurs in our daily lives. This is one type of mirroring:  As above so below.


The second example of the Mirror Principle involves our character traits in relation to others. If we have a bad habit of talking too much, we might encounter a person in the workplace, for example, who bombards us at lunch time with loud and incessant talking. This behavior might even be exaggerated so that we really take notice of it, and it bothers us. If the behavior of another angers us and makes us uncomfortable, this is a clue that we demonstrate that very behavior ourselves, albeit maybe not as pronounced. Hashem just wants us to take notice of the behavior so that we rectify it within ourselves. When we become aware of this unique correspondence and we have an aha moment, this motivates us to change. When we change, the situation improves. In this way we break free. Rather than resisting the circumstances, we embrace them, and we use the seemingly negative occurrence to alter our own behavior. In so doing, we focus on the light rather than the darkness. By “seeing” the truth, by becoming spiritually aware and working on ourselves, the circumstances change in response to our own growth. The rule, then, is to look beyond the experience to the truth---the meaning that is directed toward us.


If we have a bad habit of taking pens from people and not returning them whether intentionally or inadvertently, Hashem may take note of this and orchestrate a scenario whereby this action is mirrored back to us so we can understand how it feels when we can’t find our “favorite” pen. Especially if we get upset, frustrated, or angry if someone else consistently takes our pen and does not return it, it could be something that we are also doing but of which we may not be aware. Eventually, when we become cognizant that the very thing that upsets us in other people is exactly what we are doing and we get the message and stop the behavior, the people who were put in our lives to mirror this trait may drift away. Why? If their purpose in our lives was only to mirror a bad trait we have, then they fulfilled the purpose of their relationship with us. Once we have the awakening, the reason for the contact disappears. We need to look at everything that we perceive as “bad” as a loving message to work on ourselves.


In summary, when we become awakened to why seemingly negative traits in other people annoy us so much, that it is because we, too, embody the trait we dislike in the other person and need to correct within ourselves, then we have a goal to work on that is significant for our soul correction. When we act on this awareness, we push ourselves out of our comfort zone in the direction of refinement. We also have no reason to complain about others because they are there to actually help us refine our middot (character traits). If we were to complain or criticize someone else who has the same unrefined trait as we do, we are actually judging ourselves unfavorably. That is a very important reason to focus on the good points of others while working on ourselves.


Our children are often chosen to mirror behavior within us that needs some tweaking or speech that needs refinement. When we notice a behavior within ourselves that presents itself by way of our children, we would do well to try to refine it for ourselves rather than complain about our children. When we refine, our children also mirror the refinement, and the purpose of this principle has been fulfilled. At times this energetic correspondence can seem almost magical: When one person changes, then the other automatically improves.


Sometimes G-d chooses an inanimate object to be our mirror. For example, if we have been damaging ourselves smoking and G-d wants us to be aware of this, there have been cases whereby He orchestrates that the radiator of our car overheats and starts to smoke. If we can “see” the correspondence, we will realize that Hashem is prodding us to work on our harmful habit. The Zohar teaches how the physical and spiritual work together in this way. Another example is of a young Torah scholar who became lax in his studies. He, too, took up smoking and started spending his time at the local pub. The way the Almighty mirrored His dissatisfaction back to this person is that the scholar got bronchitis, which affected the lobes of his lungs. Kabbalistically, the Five Books of Moses are represented by the five lobes of the lungs. It appears that the problem with the scholar’s lungs was related both to his habit of smoking and his laxity in Torah study. No doubt, learning the ways Hashem communicates with us is life-enhancing.


When Hashem gives us a gift of correction, it is because He loves us and wants us to be great and reach our potential. When we open our eyes to the infinite ways that G-d interfaces with us, we live with greater meaning and clarity. Nothing can be more eye-opening and exciting to know, with certainty, that Hashem cares about each and every one of His children and is rooting for us to be great.

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