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You've Got a Friend
Mom with a View

You've Got a Friend

How to buy friends.


The mishnah in Ethics of Our Fathers advises, "Buy for yourself a friend." Initially that seems like a strange idea. What kind of friendship is one you have to buy? It sounds more like a therapist than a friend. Don't we just connect with people and become friends?

In order to understand this mishnah, we need to define "buy" and define "friend."

Let's start with friend. We all have a lot of acquaintances -- people to say hello to and chat with. We may have a lot of casual friends -- people to go to a movie with, play tennis with, and go grab a bite to eat with.

But for most of us real, true friends are few and precious. They are people who we know want our good, people with whom we share life goals.

Sometimes we find that as our involvement in Jewish life and our desire for personal growth increases, some of our more superficial relationships fall by the wayside. Or that as we get older, we have less patience for one-sided or limited relationships. "Life is too short," we tell ourselves.

Real friends are people who will be there for us in times of trouble and in times of joy. Real friends have "a good eye" – they only take pleasure in our good. Some times friends get what you want -- into a certain college, a particular job or promotion or salary, a great guy, kids etc. etc. Someone with a good eye is able to throw themselves completely into your joy, to experience your joy as their own.

We buy friends with our time, with our caring, with our commitment.

And real friends are also sometimes called upon to stop us from making serious mistakes -- from marrying the wrong person, from engaging in destructive behaviors.

If we're lucky, we are a few of those friends. And we should be very grateful.

But how do we get them? We buy them. Not with money or gifts. Not with fancy restaurants or shopping sprees. There are no "trophy" friends. We buy friends with our time, with our caring, with our commitment.

The only way to have a real friend is to be a real friend. To be there when your friend needs you, to take their concerns to heart, to agonize over their problems and, as I mentioned earlier, to rejoice in their happiness. If you just talk and they just listen, it's not a real friendship. (I remember baring my soul to my college roommate only to discover that she had fallen asleep halfway through the recital!)

Friendship is a lot of work. We have to buy it. But we are so much happier and healthier and enriched when we do.

March 21, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Anonymous, June 1, 2009 1:11 PM

I know this article is a year old...still, got advice

I agree with the article. I try to be a good friend but I have noticed that there are times when I really need of my good friends, the real close ones, and they aren't there. I know if it was super-important (wedding or not such good things) they'd be there but for the really bad day or really good one, they're not available. When you need it most, they try but it isn't the most important. But I feel like I am usually a better friend than people are to me. I'm serious - not being biased. But it is also easier for me to listen to others or help out. I'm more of a giver than taker but still, it would be nice every now & then. It could be that because I expect them to help me in crummy situations that I get upset when they don't. Maybe I have too high expectations. Advice?

(3) Doc, March 25, 2008 5:23 PM

right on

when you write about topics like these you write beautifully; please try to stay away from the gender ones in the future that only decrease your credibility needlessly and are not based on the same Torah principles that most of your topics are even if you think they are

(2) Anonymous, March 25, 2008 2:31 PM


the people in the park if they are just aquantences, you don't need more than the freindly hello.
however they may have the potential to become a real freind with whom you can both grow.
thanks for the article, a true friend is hard to find - I felt this even more after marriage
In a setting where people are to learn and grow - like sem, and shiurim one is more likely to find another person with desires to daven, learn and grow - and therefore maybe you can help eachother out!

(1) Anonymous, March 24, 2008 9:14 AM


I have been grappling with this topic for some time. How much time should we invest in friendships-- especially those "casual, aquaintance-type" ones? I am personally of the introspective type-- not necessariy shy or of low self esteem. Many times, I would much rather read or daven or be with my family than "chat" with the ladies at the park... I know there is no black and white on this topic, but maybe you could give me more insight?

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