Fair-weather friends, if they were honest, would talk like this: “It’s easy to be your friend, just so long as it doesn’t cost me anything or take me out of my comfort zone.” That of course, is not a friend, much less a true friend.
True friendship has a price-tag – it’s called empathy, the ability to feel the other person, to know when to give a pat on the back or a word of encouragement. True friendship means that you feel when the other person needs you and you’re there for them. You’re not too tired or too busy. A true friend pays the price of true friendship, even if it means sitting up all night to help or listen to the other person.
Unsurprisingly, the best spouses and best parents are first of all true friends to their partners and children.
Let’s see what Moses has to say about true friends. “Of Benjamin he said: ‘The friend of Hashem shall dwell securely by Him; He embraces him all day, and He dwells between his shoulders'” (Deuteronomy 33:12).
Why does Moses call Benjamin, the “friend of Hashem”? This is an unprecedented title in Torah. How did Benjamin earn it?
Our sages say that the term “friend” in Hebrew, yedid, indicates a bond between two people. In fact, the word “yedid” comes from writing the word for hand in Hebrew – yad – twice. We consequently learn that two friends are a hand and a hand – a connected, giving, helping hand. Also, we pay someone by putting something from our hand into their hand, because friendship does have a price. The true friend therefore demonstrates the abilities of connecting, giving and helping.
Benjamin paid a price for his title of “friend of Hashem”. He gave the land for the Holy Temple from his tribal inheritance. He gave with no angles, no ulterior motives and no expectations for anything in return. He gave because he was a friend of Hashem. He was willing to pay a big price for such friendship and he did so joyfully.
Sure, many people are willing to be our friends as long as it neither costs them anything nor requires any effort. That’s not a friend.
Our sages tell us that true friendship has no ulterior motives.
To be a good parent, one must be a true friend to the child. Sure, everyone wants an intelligent, healthy, quiet, industrious, athletic, talented, charismatic, good-looking and problem-free child. Everyone wants people to ooh and ah and say what a wonderfully successful child you have. Everyone wants the prestige of having such a child. But, it seldom works like that.
When are you upset that your problematic child affects your status, rather than investigating what my be upsetting the child’s emotional equilibrium, that’s not being a friend or a caring parent. Perhaps someone is bullying the child? Maybe the teacher embarrassed him in front of the other children by calling him “stupid” in class. Maybe the other girls make fun of your daughter’s inability to jump rope like they can, so she suffers humiliation daily at recess. Did you ever inquire what really makes your child happy or sad or what could be bothering them?
Maybe your son or daughter did come home with tears in their eyes and they wanted to speak to you. You said you were tired, preoccupied or talking on the phone to your girlfriend from Pilates class. Maybe Facebook or WhatsApp got a higher priority access to your attention than your child did. Remember? You told them to come back later, in an hour…
That’s too late, Mom and Dad – Joey or Susie need you right now. They need a true friend, one who is even willing to give up sleep to listen to them. That’s also what husbands and wives need from each other – to be a true friend with a listening ear. That’s what Hashem is for us and that’s what we need to be, at least for our spouses and children; that would be a great start to fulfilling the Torah’s commandment of loving each other like we love ourselves.