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Counting the Omer with

Day 10 — Friendship

Dibuk Chaverim • דבוק חברים

By Rabbi David Jaffe, Boston, Massachusetts

Rabbi Nancy Wechsler, Sacremento, California
Rabbi Nancy Wechsler,
with gratitude to my students at Congregation Beth Shalom,
Carmichael, California

What makes someone a good friend? Think of the best friends that you have had over the years. What qualities were preseTt — Trust? Good listening? Mutual interests? Laughs? Commitment?

In the list of 48 qualities necessary for acquiring Torah, the rabbis called close friendships, Dibuk Chaverim. Dibuk literally means clinging or cleaving, and is related to the modern Hebrew word for “glue”— Devek. It implies a closeness that lasts. What are some of the qualities that make such friendship possible

Earlier in Pirkei Avot (1:6) we have the following lesson: Yehoshua ben Prachia says: Make for yourself a teacher, acquire for yourself a friend; Judge the whole person favorably.

Notice that the word used to describe friendship is “acquire/koneh” while the word used to describe a teacher is “make/oseh.” Acquiring and making are two very different actions. In Jewish law there are three ways to come into possession of something — you make it, you acquire it, or you find it. To make something one needs desire, skill and the right materials. You can make someone your teacher even if there is no mutuality in the relationship. You just need the presence of the teacher and to be prepared to learn.

An acquisition actually requires an exchange. You acquire something from someone else. There needs to be someone willing to give and someone willing to receive. In this case the “object” is friendship itself. Real friends are not just people who exchange things with each other. Real friends give and take of themselves. Real friends exchange qualities of the heart like vulnerability and trust. They exchange vision, hopes and fears. Did you ever have a friend who was reluctant to make herself vulnerable and open up to you? It is hard to really trust and feel close to a person like that. In contrast to acquiring an object, where there is a seller and a buyer and the object changes hands, with friendship both parties need to be the giver and the taker. One may give more at certain points in the relationship, but for real friendship to last, these roles need to be fluid over time where one will be a giver at one point and a taker at another. This mutual exchange of vulnerability, listening and trust is the devek, the glue that bonds close friends to each other.

Why is friendship one of the 48 ways Torah is acquired? To really receive Torah we need to ask questions and make ourselves vulnerable to hear things that may challenge our own assumptions. These are the kinds of qualities of heart and mind that thrive in an environment of trust and friendship. The environment we create by building close friendships creates the conditions necessary for acquiring Torah.

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