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Religion, for Buber, is tied essentially to human relations. The link between human-human association and divine-human association takes place on three levels: First, the relation between human beings is seen as a model for the relation to God. Second, we only arrive at the encounter with God through our encounters with human beings. And third, our encounter with God improves our relations with human beings.
First, Buber sees the model for our relation to God in human relations. The religious moment is an encounter with the eternal You, with the entire universe, with the infinite. However, the model for the religious moment is in our encounters with particular human You's. Though we can have encounters with animals or even inanimate objects, the human encounter serves as model for the divine encounter because the human You can respond to our address. The human encounter, in other words, is dialogical, or exists in the form of the dialogue, much like the divine encounter. (God's answer in the dialogue is in the form of his revelation).
Second, we find our way to a relation with God through human relations. At first, we satisfy our need for encounter by encountering earthly You's, in particular the human You's with whom we enter into the relation of love. These encounters prepare us for the divine encounter because they teach us what it is like to exist in a relation that is larger than ourselves, to dwell in a force that transforms us. Further, these encounters lead us to the divine encounter. Because they are fleeting, they do not satisfy us, and through this transient nature we become aware that there is a higher sort of encounter that is possible. Once we realize this, we open ourselves up to it, and thus enter into an encounter with God.
Finally, once we have encountered God, we develop a sense of loving responsibility for our fellow human beings. After the encounter we are not supposed to attend to God, but, rather, we are supposed to prove the meaning of revelation though action in the world. Revelation does not consist of any knowledge that we can impart, but, rather, we become intimate with the whole universe, and love every person. We cease to feel duty or obligation toward our fellow human beings, and instead feel the need to do everything we can for them out of love. Revelation, in this view, is a humanitarian calling. Community is the place where the I–You relationship is realized.
Ace your assignments with our guide to I and Thou!