Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the last 2 1/2 months I have learned a lot about real friendship.  A friendship is not 2 people being in the same place at the same time.  It is not even two people with similar interests being in the same place at the same time.  It is not even necessarily people two people with the same interests and lots and lots of things in common in any two places on the planet be they next store neighbors or pen pals on opposite times of the world.

I have many friends with whom I do not have a thing in common.  They can be gay to my straight.  Atheist to my religious.  Vigorous excersizers to my well... not.  World travelers to my homebody.  Fashionistas to my I-would-wear-my-pajamas-all-day-if-I-could wardrobe.  They can be math and sciency to my writing and artsy.  Business to my creative.  Not a single one of those things matter in the long run.

A friend is someone who, no matter where they are, you know you  can count on to help you when you need them the most.  Someone who, failing pressing matters of their own will do their best to take your feelings and needs into account regardless of how busy they are.  They are the people who will prop you up when you feel like you can't stand on your own anymore.  The people you can call at 3am and say "I am falling apart and need you to help hold me together" and you know intuitively that they will be in the car before you manage to hang up the phone.

But they can also be people you have never met in your life.  They can be random internet strangers you have met in a chatroom who spend 3 minutes a few times a week sending you messages of hope and courage and telling you they believe in you.  It can be someone you "know" from a forum who has gone above and beyond anything you would expect even close friends or family to do for you.  It can be anything from sending you  something you can not find anywhere that they scoured there city for, or a stupid little piece to a game your kid lost that they don't need anymore.

A friend is someone who says "I want to be certain not to cause any unneeded pain even if it does mean walking on eggshells for a while".  Who may not understand your emotional needs but accepts them anyway.

But the one thing a friend is first and foremost is mutual.  A one sided friendship, no matter how well intentioned, is not going to stand the test of time.  A friendship has that is all take and no give is going to wear thin eventually when the giver gets sick and tired of being taken advantage of.

I spent a lot of years learning Pirkey Avot and it says pretty clearly oseh lecha Rav, v'koneh lecha chaver.  Make for yourself a Rav- it is a one sided relationship- you go to him with questions, he is there when you need him, he carries the weight of his entire kehillah on his shoulders.  Koneh lecha chaber- buy for yourself a friend- it is a  two sided transaction.  You need to give your friend a piece of yourself in order for it to be a real friendship.  There is no such thing as making for yourself a friend and placing all the responsability for the friendship on their shoulders.

To those who have been there by phone, by email, by text message, on forums, in chatrooms, and obviously in real life looking out for me, for my feelings, my emotions, my physical health and the health of my family.  To those who have done everything from laundry to making meals to making sure I got to see Channah's messibat siddur even though I was in the hospital having the worst week of my life.  To those who have been offering prayers and hopes and wishes from around the world, please know that you have my gratitude and that I would offer the same in a heartbeat to each and everyone of you.

Thank you.


  1. The Mishna ends with judge everyone favourably. Friendship means easily burying the hatchet and forgiveness when a friend makes a mistake.

    Our friends, community and family have shown their true colours over the last few months. We are grateful for their support.

  2. Rachel - We also learned (sometimes the hard way) who our real friends were after DH's accident.

    We learned that there are some people who are "fair weather friends" who only stick around when things are good, when you're a fun person to be with, and when you can share good things together. But when the going gets rough or depressing, they disappear.

    And there are others who decide that when you are dealing with a tremendously difficult situation that they can lecture you about how they think your decisions are wrong and why you're making a mistake with your life.

    And then there are others who come out of the woodwork, who step forward to offer playdates, driving to medical appointments, errands, meals, or just a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.

    And there are certain people who helped (and continue to help) who we will never be able to "pay back" in any way - and they don't expect us to. This is true chessed.

    But what we did ultimately decide to do is "pay it forward" when we can. I have observed that when you are a recipient of chessed, you also are transformed into a better giver. When I want to help someone in need, I don't ever ask the token "Is there anything I can do?" but offer specific things I can sincerely deliver. So when I have the time, I make several batches of meals to deliver to people who need them (often surprising them, as I can't always plan when I'll have the time). Or when I do a shopping run, I'll call some friends to see what they need. Or host a stranger who doesn't have a place for a shabbas or yom tov meal.

    DH and I agree that this is true strength of the Orthodox community - the incredible chessed that happens on a daily basis, often behind the scenes, by people who don't expect to be thanked. This is a true religious experience.

    Olam Chesed Yibaneh.

  3. Beautifully written. Indeed, a friend should always be there for you - not making demands of you, but trying to understand your pain and offering to appease it. Friends should always be there, you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for writing this.

  4. Dave, coming from you the beautifully written means a lot. To both you and Chavale, I know both of you know the importance of friends stepping in when needed. Please know that whenever and wherever we can, Jason and I are here for you both. Well, Channah too but she does not do much on her own yet.