Communication / Essays 2019
A young man once approached the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, and asked: “ Rebbe, What is it that you do that makes people from all different backgrounds flock daily to you, to seek blessing and guidance in their life?” With a kind and loving smile, the Rebbe answered,”I try to be a good friend.” Confused by the Rebbe’s response, The man forgot whom he was standing before and blurted out,”Seriously?! is that all that you do?” The Rebbe’s smile widened.”How many friends do you have?” he questioned the young man. Confidently the man replied “I have many”.Completely serious now, the Rebbe said, “let me define a friend for you and then you’ll tell me how many friends you actually have.” He then continued: “A friend is someone in whose presence you can think aloud, without worrying about being taken advantage of. A friend is someone who rejoices in your joy, and cries in your pain. A friend is someone who is always looking out for you. In truth, a friend is an actual extension of yourself.” The smile returned to the Rebbe’s face. “Now tell me, how many friends do you have?”
Unfortunately, in today’s society, many people would give the flippant response that young man gave the Rebbe. Walk around New York City and ask people how many friends they have. A typical response would be, “At least one hundred. I mean, have you seen my Facebook page?” Yet, think about the Rebbe’s very true definition.Would Joe the plumber, your number one follower on instagram, come over with a hot bowl of chicken soup when you’re stuck in bed with a bad case of the flu? The answer may hurt, yet remains the same; no. Friendships very obviously run much deeper than that. There is so much more to this necessary part of our lives. Yet, to achieve real, true friendships,is difficult, and even more so, to make them last.
Friendships could be compared to a steep, rocky cliff. It can take years to climb that cliff and get to the peak. Once you reach it you’re on top, paying no attention to the many people still struggling to climb. Yet the summit is narrow. It takes just one gust of wind to send you hurtling down the steep slope towards the frightening abyss below. Is it worth the tedious climb back up? The question plagues you. But as the loneliness slowly takes over, you take a deep breath and slowly start anew. Why? Why are friendships so hard to achieve, yet so easy to lose? How do I turn that slope into clear, flat land? Let us turn to chassidus for guidance.
To understand and grasp how to obtain a lasting friendship we must first understand what true love is. For in truth where do relationships stem from, if not love?
The baal hatanya teaches how to love one’s fellow as yourself in chapter thirty two of his book, the tanya. If we make the love real then the relationship will automatically become real as well. Let us take a step back, to chapter thirty one in tanya, and the advice that is given there.
Chapter thirty one:
When man is experiencing constant anguish due to a sorry spiritual state, he must acquire joy.This is done by remembering that true, when considering only his body and animal soul he may seem to be lacking in G-dliness. Deep within him though, is his divine soul. A soul that is like a candle. Always flickering upwards towards its source. A soul that is one with G-d. This divine soul is imprisoned. Shackled and held back by the constraints of his body. This soul is constantly yearning to be free. Therefore, our main goal and focus should be to release the soul from the imprisonment. By doing good deeds and of what G-d wants from us. With the freedom that we grant, we will finally feel content, and true joy. When acting on this advice, of focusing on one’s spiritual self and regarding the physical aspect with disesteem, we are led to the answer on how to have real love.
Chapter thirty two:
The baal hatanya relates in chapter thirty two, that if we take into account the above advice, then if our bodies are not given so much importance, how can man love someone less than himself? If anything the love should be doubled, because man’s own body is considered unimportant. The love must be from the soul. With the soul and spirit, the different levels of two neshamos, will surely not reduce the love between them. In fact we all come from the same source and same father, G-d himself. While still in the source they encompass one entity, they are virtually one and the same. Therefore, the love that we are commanded to possess, should be as natural as the love between two brothers. Now since it is the soul that binds us all together, and the body that detaches us from a fellow, the more one focuses on his body and external being, the more he notices the faults and differences of his friends, thereby causing a rift between them. When one is in that state of detachment the loves that he has towards others, must be created. A created love can never equal a natural. That being so, a love between two people that consider their bodies primarily important in their lives, the love is based on an external factor. When that happens,the love is extremely limited in two ways: the love is only as important as what is being based on, and will only be in existence for as long as the external factor on which it is being based is existing.
If our soul is what’s connecting us to others then why are there certain people whom we dislike? Not baselessly, but due to true concerns and reasons. Rabbi Sholom Dovber, also known as the Rebbe Rashab, writes in his Chassidic discourse knows as haichaltzu, that these are not true reasons, but rather true validations. Validations for the baseless hatred. The real reason we dislike others is our yeshus, our egotistical pride. For example our external talents and abilities. That person whom we cannot stand, or even merely dislike is posing as a threat to our ego. Our ego comes to the conclusion that if that specific person is your friend, in any which way, it will force the ego to make some room, so he can join the party. After reaching that conclusion you devise a reason for the hatred. After all, you are not an evil person who hates someone just for the fun of it. However that validation/reason is coming after the hatred. The cause after the effect. The way we stop this baseless hatred is by having bitul. How does one have bitul? Being batul is acknowledging the fact that all we have is from G-d, all our yeshus, our externals are not what defines us, we have to look on our inside. Our inner soul. That neshama is a flame, and a flame could share light without losing any of its own light. When we realize that, then we realize that the fact that someone is better than us at something, doesn’t take anything away from us. We are we for our neshama. How do we get rid of that feeling of “I can’t stand this person”? By realizing that those externals, those yeshus, is not what matters but rather our soul is what is really me. When we focus on the inside of ourselves, we don’t dislike anyone, because they cannot take away from our essence.
They are one:
In Hayom yom chof daled av, the Rebbe says that the baal hatanya taught one of his chassidim the following in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: If you do not love your fellow then you do not love Hashem. For if you did, you would love what your beloved loves. One who loves the father loves the children. All the more reason to take that love you have towards G-d, and channel it to those around you.
A step by step guide on how to achieve real friendships and make them last:
- Think: what is it about you that gives you confidence? Do you dance? Do you sing? Do you play chess? Here’s an example: Chani has the prettiest hair you’ve ever seen. Her thick, red, luxurious locks, flow gracefully as she walks. Walking down the street, she basks in the glory of the open mouths and wows directed at her. It is her pride and joy. It gives her the confidence she needs to get through the day.
- Imagine: You are put in a new social setting. There are lots of talented girls there too.Now your talent seems insignificant. Feelings of resentment can arise. Chani goes to camp, and there’s a girl who hair is more stunning than hers. Chani does not have particularly good feelings towards this girl, after all, she took her place.
- Realize: These talents or stunning looks are our Yeshus, our externals which is just a G-d given gift. We must have bitul, by focusing on our neshama, which is who we truly are. Our neshama is a candle which can endlessly give without diminishing its own light. We won’t have any feelings of resentment if we focus on our neshama. Chani no longer needs her hair to make her feel special, after all she has a soul inside of her.
- Acknowledge: Just like we have that soul inside of us, so does everyone else. Just like we focus mainly on our inside, so too we must focus on others inside. You start with yourself and move on. Chani acknlowedges that everyone else also has this Neshama.
- Now the love begins. Like father like son: This love is real. It is not based on anything external, but rather on the soul within. The two redheads begin to like each other.
By following these five steps, it is possible to achieve a good and lasting friendship. And the cliffs? They don’t have to be cliffs. Once everyone realizes that it is not a race, and that if someone gets there first it is totally okay, it can become an enjoyable hike. Everyone will be taking their time while helping each other. No resentment allowed. Only love because of who everyone really is, and when we reach the top, there is room for all.
That is why the Rebbe was a real friend, he loved everyone solely for who they are. He looked into their soul and simply, loved.
Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu: How lucky we are that we have Chassidus to guide us!