FRIEND OR FOE
The wisest of men wrote that the definition of a good wife is a wife who knows how to build a family. Not a woman who is fashionable, witty, fun, supportive, rich, always encouraging or cute. But one who does her job, to build the home, whatever that entails. King Solomon wrote in Mishlei, ×—×›×ž×ª × ×©×™× ×‘× ×ª×” ×‘×™×ª×”, the wisdom of women built her house. ×•××•×œ×ª ×‘×™×“×™×” ×ª×”×¨×¡× ×• And the foolish woman destroys her house, with her own hands. (Mishlei 14;1)
The Talmud teaches that the former part of the verse is referring to the wife of On Ben Pelet. She told her husband that whether Korah was right or Moshe was right, On was not going to be upgraded to High Priest. He had nothing to gain, and could only lose. She did not support her husbandâ€™s argument. She challenged him, ever so gently and respectfully. And by doing so, she saved her family.
Korahâ€™s wife seemed to be the kind of woman that many men would wish to have. A woman who holds her husband on a pedestal – as “the” first and foremost. â€œYou can do it, Korah!â€ â€œYou can be number one, the man closest to G-d! Mosheâ€™s position is a cinch for you!â€ â€œI will make you the most beautiful tzitzit, a blue garment, and you, the richest of all men, my brilliant husband, my tzaddik, father of wonderful children, will be elected over Moshe!â€ Pretty encouraging, wasnâ€™t she? Yet, she demolished her house with her own hands. Because a good wife is not a blindly encouraging one.
In marriage, some of the hardest conversations are the best ones. Opinions, differences, backgrounds. When you see things from another perspective, you notice your blind spots. The Hebrew word for marriage is × ×™×©×•××™×Ÿ, the root being to uplift, × ×©×. Marriage is about constantly uplifting yourself, and one another. If you do not keep rising to the challenge, the marriage can be terminated.
At times, we tend to think that love in marriage means oneness. Fun, schmoozing, romance, support, and encouragement. But real love is harmony, two different beings complementing each other, even if they are not always complimenting. Quite often, when I am coaching yeshiva students, being part of the chevrah, part of the social life going on in yeshiva, is a major topic. Usually, the way I help boys overcome giving in to the social pressure is by defining what a best friend is. Your best friend is not the one you have the best time with, the one with whom you go on trips, make a barbeque, play ball, and shmooze. Your best friend is the one who brings out the best in you. (Lucky is the man whose best friend in the world is his wife. As long as she brings out the best in you, she is your best friend!)
We like to think that our friends in life are those who smile to us, those who we chill with, those who see the world the way we see it. But quite often, that is not the case. Sometimes, those can be our greatest enemies. Before the Pesach Ben Hazmanim, I got a phone call. It was from a yeshiva student who is a weekly reader of Thinkingaboutme.org parasha papers. â€œRabbi, can I ask you a quick question? I have a problem. I am going back home to LA for Pesach, and I have friends there that smoke weed. I have been clear from drugs for my year in yeshiva in Israel. No one else in the yeshiva takes drugs. I really do not want to go back to drugs when I am home for the Pesach break. Rabbi, please, help me.”
I recommended either that he delete all of his â€œdrug friendsâ€ from his contacts, or that he stay in Israel for Pesach. He opted to delete his friends. Fine.
After Pesach, I bumped into him and asked him how things are going. â€œFineâ€. Were you able to stay strong and stay clean over your Bein Hazmanim? â€œYes. Until the last few days. Before coming back to Israel, I called one of my best â€œfriendsâ€. I told him that I am going back to Israel, and I needed from him a huge favor. I needed him to contact the dealer and buy me some weed. My friend said, I am not doing it. You have been off of drugs for a year. If you want the weed, I’ll give you the number of the dealer, and you pick it up yourself. But I am not calling for you. I told him, ‘Come on, you are my only best friend in the world. I really need you now, and I promised my Rabbi I will not put those numbers in my phone again. Please, donâ€™t do this to me bro, just one pack of weed. Come on! You’re my only friend in the world.’ So, he went and got me the weed. Rabbi, I am addicted. I am out of control. It’s hopeless.”
I raised his chin so that his gaze would be locked into mine. “I thought you said that you erased all of your ‘Friends’ from your contacts? Why was he not erased? If you would like me to help you, I can do so only if you erase him, right now, from your contacts.”
Rabbi, you canâ€™t ask me to do that. He is my only friend. He is my best friend. He always pulls through for me. Please, I’ll do anything you ask of me, just not to erase my only friend in life, who was always there for me since pre-1a! (I used to think that the greatest enemy to change is speed. Now I believe that the greatest enemy to change is â€œfriendsâ€.)
Many times in life, we need to clarify Chevrah, social circles, we need to evaluate the influence that social circles have on us. It has been said, that if you want to make enemies, try to change something. So when deciding who is friend or foe, first clarify your goals in life. Define a “friend” as one who can help you to get where you want to go in life; those who stand in the way of your goals, or who keep you away from them, are your enemies. Or, you can just leave things up to chance, ignoring your ability to make decisions and guide your own life, making “friends” with people who are nice to you, even though those people are not in line with your lifeâ€™s goals.
Whenever we want to make a change for the better, to improve, we need to examine our social contacts: the ones who are on board with our goals, encouraging new habits that we would like to adopt, are our friends. The people who attempt to pull us away from our life’s values are, in this case, our enemies!
This is the secret to all change. And this is the secret to genuine, constructive, long-term relationships.