Friendship — Chaverut is an important value in Judaism because friendship helps us to become the best person we can be. We learn from, through and with our friends. The rabbis insisted that study be done in pairs called chevrutas, because they knew this was the best way to learn. It says in Pirke Avot (1:6), “Acquire for yourself a friend.” We can have many people with whom we spend time, but a true friend is unique. A true friend is a partner, one who shares our journey.
The rabbi asked his students how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun. One said, “When you see an animal in the distance and can tell if it is a horse or a cow.” “No,” said the master. Another said, “When you look at a tree in the distance and can tell if it is a fig tree or a peach tree.” “Wrong again,” said the master. “Then when?” asked the students. And the master replied, “When you look at the face of a man or woman and see that he is your friend. For, if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is by the sun, it is still night.”
Rabbi Wayne Dosick writes, “In every friendship, you can see and reflect a vision of hope for the entire world: the time when billions of individual people will seek each other in kinship and friendship, and weave a multihued fabric of respect, goodwill, and affection.”
Here are some great discussion starters to have with your children. They learn so much by hearing our thoughts as well in a discussion so give your ideas too:
What does it mean to be a friend? Talk about your friends and why each one is so special to you.
Have you ever been “left out” by friends? How does it feel? Have you ever not included someone else?
How can you be a friend to yourself? Why is this important?
Talk about the meaning of this special song: “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend, and together we will walk in the ways of Hashem.”
Try this with older children: Many Jewish prayers are written using a form called an acrostic. The rabbis took a special word and each letter of the word was the first letter of each sentence. Write an acrostic poem with the word “FRIEND” as the key word.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.