Friendship Equals Love and Compassion

Rivka Olenick

"A friend loves at all times and becomes as a brother in adversity." Proverbs 17:17
Who is a true friend? It is someone whose philosophical life and values we share. A true friend cares about each other's well-being and are happy to share in each others goals, achievements, and growth. A true friend enjoys sharing ideas relating to the philosophy of Judaism and of Torah, since this is the essence of their friendship. One shouldn't think, "I'll keep this information to myself so I will become greater than my friend." Sharing knowledge is the basis and essential part of the friendship that gives each one the strength and courage to continue in their search for truth and continuing along the path in doing God's will.
How much time can friends spend in meaningless talk? Talking about the stock market for hours doesn't provide real growth. Real growth can only come through Torah thought, through acquiring knowledge. Stock is acquisition growth of a different kind! True friendship continues with each one helping the other to correct their thoughts by communicating and exchanging ideas by searching for truth together. In the most ideal way we nurture our friendships this way and we prove to each other that we are loyal to the friendship by being involved in God's wisdom together. The strongest bonds of friendship can be maintained this way and help to bring peace to each other's lives.
There is mutual respect and enjoyment in the good and pure traits and intentions our friend possesses. We are there for each other not only in the good and joyful times, but also in times of great sorrow and adversity. For in times of sorrow it is this friend who remains. Why, because the friendship was cultivated by the searching for and the sharing of truth to begin with. Sorrow and times of distress is also truth Sorrow and crisis are part of the reality, of life. And so our "true friend" is there for us and with us and is willing to help us with the burdens that adversity brings. Your friend understands the idea: "Love your neighbor as yourself." And so your friend commiserates with you and listens to you sincerely and encourages you to speak freely from your heart about your sadness. There is trust between you and your friend wants to help you because he/she knows that you are feeling over whelmed and vulnerable. Your friend also understands that chesed isn't only in giving "things" to each other, chesed is also giving of oneself by genuinely caring.
Friend equals love and compassion. There cannot be true friendship without compassion. From the book Horeb, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says: "Compassion is the warning voice of duty, which points out to you your brother in every sufferer, and your own sufferings in his, and awakens the love which tells you that you belong to him with all his sufferings with all the powers that you have. Do not suppress this compassion! If you do it will no longer well up of itself, and you will have cut yourself off from the company of all your fellow creatures. You yourself will have destroyed the first proof of your mission as man and Israelite. Your heart becomes a stone and there no longer sounds in it the voice of God, reminding you of your mission."
In times of your distress the true face of your friend's compassion shows. This is how we know for sure if our friend is sincere no other way can express this. This is what to look for in a true friendship.
Compassion. Don't think that expressing compassion is a sign of weakness, it is not. Don't be trapped by the fake Hollywood standards of friendship. To the contrary, compassion is the deepest emotion a person can express because it is also part of love. There is no real love without compassion and no real compassion without love. It's impossible to have one without the other. So, what if there were no one on earth, and you were left alone; to whom would you show your compassion? Who would be your friend? So, don't say, "Well, my friend will always be there for me, no matter what." That is not always true. We should never take each for granted or take advantage of each other. Every friend's job is to be involved in their friend's perfection within their capability. Every conversation and meeting is an opportunity to be of help to your friend. Every situation, especially if it is challenging is an opportunity to look into yourself and improve yourself. Your friend's challenging situation is an opportunity for you to be involved in chesed, chesed shel emes with that friend. Be as honest with yourself as possible and be sure about who you choose to be your friend.
In adversity does your friend love at all times and becomes as a brother?

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