Jewish Wisdom on Friendship

Jewish literature offers many insights into the nature of friendship, the rewards it offers, and the efforts one should make to sustain a friendship.

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"But the first peasant replied, 'You say that you love me, but you do not know what I need. If you really loved me, you would know.'

"The other had not a word to say to this, and the peasant who had put the question fell silent again.

"But I understood. To know the needs of men and to bear the burden of their sorrow--that is the true love of men."

-- Martin Buber (1878-1965), a prolific author and influential Jewish thinker, was Professor of Social Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Reprinted from Tales of the Hasidim, vol. 2: The Later Masters (Schocken Books).

Only Our Relationships Endure

I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work building an elaborate sand castle by the water's edge, with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand.

I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle.

I realized that they had taught me an important lesson. All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody's hand to hold will be able to laugh.

-- Rabbi Harold Kushner,  best selling author and one of the most well recognized rabbis in the world. Reprinted from When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough (Fireside Publishing).

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