Friendship... an abundance of riches.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my friendships during this pandemic. I’ve always valued them, however, during these trying times I've found them to be especially comforting. My need to reach out and check in has been more acute. My appreciation has deepened. My sensitivity to others has increased.
When I speak of friendships, I am talking about those people with whom I have a history. My childhood friend, a student from my university days, my early career mentoring of an exchange student from Israel, my first roommate, my friends in Sarasota with whom I shared the experience of raising a family.
Of course, I have many acquaintances and colleagues around the world whom I value and keep in touch, but it is the people who I know I can call to share good news or bad at any time, day or night. It’s the people you can just pick up where you left off even if a lot of time has passed. I experienced this in February at my daughter’s wedding. It was a friendship frenzy – my past and my present colliding! How rich I felt my life has been.
However, these are not the only friendships that I hold dear to my heart. It was interesting to read that Judaism defines friendship as one of the primary relationships in life, a tie at times exceeding that which binds blood relatives. It was also interesting to learn that re’ut, or friendship, is one of the components of marital joy in the wedding liturgy. I always say how lucky I am that I married my best friend!
Particularly valued is the custom of finding a partner with whom to study the classical Jewish texts. This partnership, known as havruta, is “fueled by passionate energy and mutual concern for each other’s spiritual welfare." I have joined a havruta in Kansas City and study the breadth of Jewish writings. I find it intellectually stimulating, personally fulfilling and rewarding to be in the presence of such humble and learned people. In the Talmud it states, “I have learned from my teachers, but from my friends more than my teachers” (BT Ta’anit 7a). The company of one’s peers is highly valued in Jewish life.
I also believe friendship is articulated through my work in Jewish communal life and reflects our strong Jewish belief in the value of relationships and community. It is because of these relationships that our community is united and strong. To me, our community is like a beautiful tapestry of colorful threads with different textures all woven together to represent a beautiful piece of art. We certainly are not all the same (that would be boring!) but each element contributes to the whole.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, in When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, shares a story about two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand and building a castle. Just when they finished a wave came along and knocked it down. Rather than bursting into tears, the children ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle.
The lesson here, is that “All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships with people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build. When that happens, only the person who has somebody’s hand to hold will be able to laugh."
This pandemic has been like a big wave pulling us under. I wish you the kind of friendships that ‘throw you a buoy’ and with whom you can laugh and build castles in the sand.