Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Three Categories Of Friendship

It appears there are three categories of friendship:

Category 1: Friendship based on proximity

Category 2: Friendship based on circumstance

Category 3: True friendship

Many times we think that our friendships are true friendships but time proves that they were merely based on proximity or circumstance. Category 1 and Category 2 friendships often dissolve when one person moves.

Category 3 friendships may initially be based on proximity or circumstance, however there is another element to these friendship that allows them continue for years and sometimes decades with very little contact between the two parties.

What is the element that separates a friendship from a "true friendship"? Is it shared interests or worldview? Not necessarily. Some friendships are a combination of shared interest/world view and proximity/circumstance and yet they still do not last.

Is it possible to simply define what the one element in a true lasting friendship is?


At January 12, 2006 at 7:51:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Is it possible to simply define what the one element in a true lasting friendship is?

Yes, plain and simple: Ahavas Yisrael

I believe it was the Maggid of Mezritch who said that if I don't love every Jew the way I love my own children/spouse, etc., then I haven't attained real Ahavas Yisrael.

At January 12, 2006 at 8:17:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: But taking a broader look at this question, how would "Ahavas Yisrael" answer the question about friendships among non-Jews?

At January 12, 2006 at 8:27:00 AM EST, Blogger Shoshana said...

It's so funny that I was just thinking about this idea this morning. I remember studying the three levels of friendship in a class about Aristotle, and then hearing a shiur about how Rambam expanding on the topic.

I am heading to Baltimore for the weekend and I was thinking about the difference between those friends that I haven't heard much from since my move, and how they seem to be friends more of proximity than anything else, and those who have really kept in touch and let me know how they think about me since I have gone, and how they seem to be in a different category. Thanks for writing the blog post for me!

At January 12, 2006 at 8:33:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

My pleasure, Shoshana. I am glad it was of benefit for someone out there.

Have a safe trip.

At January 12, 2006 at 9:19:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear ASJ,

There is a story told of Reb Auerbach that he accompanied his wife to the doctor's office because she had been experiencing severe pain in her left (right?) foot. Upn arrival, the doctor queried: "So ... what is the problem?" ... to which Reb Auerbach apoke up: "OUR foot hurts!"

That which makes a friendship "true" is both the willingness and ability to put the interests/needs of the other before one's own interests/needs ... to sacrifice or perhaps even delay one's pursuit of self-interest so that one's other (whether a spouse or friend) can become truly a "significant other".

I remain ...

Very Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch

At January 12, 2006 at 9:27:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Alan: Thank you for your thoughts on this posting. I have heard that story told about Rabbi Aryeh Levin of Jerusalem.

At January 12, 2006 at 10:02:00 AM EST, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Excellent, excellent post. Shared experiences are essential for a true friendship - but only as a building block. Real lasting friendship comes from mutual respect, trust and giving to one another. It is not needing to expect love and caring and support from the other because you know it is already there (and they know the same is true of you), without words having been spoken. It is a feeling of security, the ability to be yourself around them, of never being uncomfortable because you will not be judged. I have been blessed with a good number of true friends; many many more friends who I may have thought might be true at one time turned out to be only situational. But the distinction becomes clear pretty quickly. Breaking it down to one element that marks a true friend? Hard to say, but I would go with safety.

At January 12, 2006 at 10:09:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

The story Alan cites is indeed about the Tzaddik of Jerusalem, HaRav Aryeh Levin, ztuk"l. It's in the book about him, and I've also heard it from his grandson, R. Benjy Levin, who happens to live in my neighborhood here in Yerushalayim.

Yitz: But taking a broader look at this question, how would "Ahavas Yisrael" answer the question about friendships among non-Jews?

Without getting too controversial & starting a mega-comment blitz like you find on DovBear, I would say that Category 3 friendships are just about impossible with non-Jews. Halevai we should come to the Ahavas Yisrael that the Maggid speaks of!!!
Please remember what Chazal say, Halacha, Esav soneh es Yaakov (and I daresay Yishmael isn't much better), and what the Baal HaTanya says about Chessed Le'umim Chatas.

At January 12, 2006 at 11:23:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R' J.B. Soloveichik once commented on his relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe along these lines:

Friendship has nothing to do with how often one speaks to another, or how often one sees another, rather, friendship is an internal connection. Although one may not see another for many years, they remain true friends, and when they come together they are as close as ever.

I don't want to sound heretical, but I think that one may be a close friend with a non-Jew...

At January 12, 2006 at 12:06:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My best friend is a woman I've known for over 20 years. We were room-mates in college and stayed friends since then. She is not Jewish. She's a wonderful person. We haven't always lived in the same town but have always been friends.

At January 12, 2006 at 12:40:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

MCAryeh: You too shared some beautiful thoughts.

Yitz: Perhaps I was not clear in what I wrote. What I meant was that if one takes a broader look at friendship - even as it exists among non-Jews, what is the one element that creates a lasting friendship?

Chabakuk Elisha & Mirty: I agree with you 100%. I certainly think it is possible to be a true friend with a non-Jew. I don't think there is anything "heretical" about it, and if so, I would like to know where in the Shulchan Aruch it prohibits it. (it doesn't)

At January 12, 2006 at 12:43:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...

ASJ, CE, Mirty, et al,

I, too, have had close friendships with non-Jews. Nonetheless, let us remember the statement of our Sages that SJ introduced here:
Any love that depends on a specific cause, when that cause is gone, the love is gone; but if it does not depend on a specific cause, it will never cease.
(Pirkei Avos 5:19)

Can this exist between a Jew and a non-Jew? Probably yes. However, to find it even between 2 Jews is extremely rare! Now, taking the Maggid's statement that I mentioned earlier, let's just try to expand that Ahava sh'eino t'luya badavar and apply it to every Jew! That's enuf 4 me!

At January 12, 2006 at 12:46:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...


We just posted almost simultaneously! To answer your most recent question, I'd say, unconditional love - Ahavas Chinam.

At January 12, 2006 at 12:53:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the distinction Yitz, and there is a Rashi in Chumash (that I won't mention) that is a very strong support for your positon.
I will say that there cannot be true friendship with "gentiles" under most circumstances, but there are exceptions to the rule - for example chassidei umos haolam, and how about a convert and their non-Jewish family, or perhaps even other exceptions...

At January 12, 2006 at 2:16:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(And let us remember the close personal true friendship between R' Yehuda HaNassi and the Roman nobleman Antignus Ish Socho.)

At January 12, 2006 at 2:48:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: I was going to cite that example as well. It looks like you beat me to it.

At January 12, 2006 at 11:35:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mcaryeh, that was just beautiful.

I love the idea of exploring this issue. Of course I knew about the great philosophers, but I never realized there were Judaic commentaries about this. So far, what's been posted has been very educational.

If you don't mind, would it be ok to explore the issue a little further regarding friendship between men and women (single or married), or unless, to borrow a few lines from When Harry Met Sally - Harry: "Great, friends. It's the best thing...You realize, of course, that we can never be friends." "I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let's face it - men and women can't be friends."


At January 13, 2006 at 1:26:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really interested in this subject, and I really enjoyed reading all your comments. I just wanted to throw in my own perspective. A true friends is a second self. We will do for our friends what we would do for ourselves and even sometimes more than we would do for ourselves. A friend's pains become our pains. A friend's dreams become our dream. It takes a tremendous amount of virtue to be a true friend, thus friendship is based on virtue, but not necessarily religion.

At January 13, 2006 at 6:50:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Genendy: Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on my posting.


Here is a link to a book with more on the Jewish perspective on male-female friendship issues.

Anonymous: I agree with you 100%.

At January 15, 2006 at 7:09:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Besides the example Chabakuk Elisha cited, the Tanach states that King David had a non-Jewish friend. II Shmuel 16:16 makes reference to "Chushai the Arkite, David's friend".

At November 19, 2014 at 1:33:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that it's been almost nine years since this was posted (and the comments), but I feel that it might be a good idea to clarify a statement made by Chabakuk Elisha about the friendship Rebbi had with the Roman nobleman. The Roman nobleman was Marcus Antoninus. Antignos Ish Socho was very much a Jew; in fact, he was the transition between the Anshei K'nesset haGedolah and the first era of Chazal, the Zugot (as enumerated at the very beginning of Pirkei Avot).


Post a Comment

<< Home