Ethics

For the week ending 4 March 2006 / 4 Adar I 5766

What Friends Are For

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I have a close friend whom I like but who occasionally is tempted to do something I consider morally wrong. This makes me doubt whether it is worthwhile maintaining such a friendship. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: A popular safety slogan in Israel says: “When you drink don’t drive. That’s what friends are for.”

The Torah take on friendship is a lot broader. Rabbi Yonah of Gerundi, in his classic commentary on Pirkei Avot, lists three things that “friends are for”.

In addition to the obvious human need to have a friend in whom you can confide and with whom you can share joy and sorrow, there is the Torah wisdom one gains from studying with a friend, a gain that even surpasses what one receives from a teacher.

It is the third need for a friend that applies to your question. You need a friend to serve as your conscience when you are tempted to do the wrong thing and he is not. This is a symbiotic relationship with you acting as his conscience when things are the other way around.

Don’t drop the relationship. Try instead to enrich it by helping one another get over moral lapses.

In conclusion, friends are not for merely driving you home when you get drunk, but to stop you from getting drunk in the first place.

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