I’d like to thank my toddler for napping and my baby for entertaining himself, which is how I had time to write today’s Torah Tuesdays post. Boys, you’re the best!
I was looking at some notes I took from a class on Koheles (Ecclesiastes) that I took with Rebetzin Heller, back in the day when I was in seminary. Today’s post is taken from the notes on chapter four, verse nine:
What? Buy a friend how? What kind of friend would that be anyways?
“Buy” can mean to serve them nicely, and treat them well in a physical sense (like making them a latte, or buying them chocolate). Or, spiritually, you give them what they need.
Note: This may not be what you want to give. For example, maybe you’re a really good listener, and you know someone who needs a sympathetic ear. You may not want to hear that person’s woes, but that may be your purpose in the relationship at that time.
Who should be your friend? It’s worthwhile to be selective when making these choices. Why? Because you become who your friend is. That is, you will be influenced by who you spend time with.
In part, this is because we all seek approval on some level. Most people will act a little like a chameleon to become more like who they are around (and therefore, by being like them, they will like you). However, if you keep the laws of Ahavas Reim (that’s loving your neighbor, folks), people will like you without you having to compromise your personality.
For instance, if you speak well of others, you’ll see their good points. Doesn’t that sound nice? Instead of dwelling on the annoying parts of other people, be a mentsch and mention their positive attribute. You’d want someone else to do the same for you, yes (and we’re back to that golden rule)?
Rebbetzin Heller went on to state that the camouflage we put on to be more like those we admire is not bad. However, it’s necessary to have boundaries, to be honest with yourself about who you are. It’s fine to strive to grow to become more like your role models, but it’s just as important to be realistic about how much you can stretch yourself at any given time.
And so, since who we spend our time with affects who we are ourselves, by picking our friends, we can choose who we want to become. The perfect friend is the one who can keep you straight. The one who will tell you when you’re not being true to yourself (or when you have spinach in your teeth, that’s very important, too).
So, the next time you’re spending time with your friends, ask yourself “Am I being my friend, or am I being myself?” And see if you are on the way to becoming who you want to be.