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Monday, 27 July 2015

True friends don't keep score

Daf Yomi Nedarim 63

Jonathan and David were best of friends.  Pirkei Avos teaches that the bond between the prince and the future king was the epitome of baseless love.  Jonathan knew that his friend would one day take his place as heir to the throne.  But that didn’t stop him going to bat for – nay, saving the life of – David.

On one occasion, David sensed that King Saul had it in for him and expressed his fears to Jonathan. 
‘I’m not going to come to dinner for the next couple of days’ said David. ‘If your father asks where I am, tell him I’ve gone to a family feast in Bethlehem.’
Sure enough, once David had failed to show up for three days, King Saul inquired as to his whereabouts.
‘He’s home with his family in Bethlehem,’ Jonathan replied.
King Saul rose from his throne.  Engulfed by rage, he thrust his sword towards Jonathan.  Dodging the bullet, Jonathan ran from the room.  At that point, he realized David’s suspicions were confirmed and he resolved to do whatever necessary to protect his friend, even at the expense of his own safety and security.

If one said to his friend, ‘I vow that you shall not derive any benefit from me unless you give my child a measure of wheat and two barrels of wine,’ Rabbi Meir maintains that he is prohibited from benefit until he gives it to him.  But the Sages teach that the vow is annulled even without the direction of a sage.

A true friendship rises above all calculations.  It is not dependent on tit-for-tat.  When one ‘friend’ threatens the other in order to get want they want, that’s not a friendship at all.  It’s a business transaction.  If you’re in the realm of menacing statements like this one, who would want that kind of friendship?

Jonathan and David demonstrated true friendship.  The prince was willing to put everything on the line for his friend, with no expectation of anything in return.  It’s that kind of friendship that is worth pursuing.   When you find someone who is dedicated to you in life, and you feel dedicated to them – no strings attached – that’s the kind of friend you want.

True friends don’t keep score.  If you really love them and they really love you, there’s no limit to the amount of goodwill you will show one another, regardless of who has done what for the other in the past. Such friendships are hard to come by but if you make the effort to become a true friend without ever keeping score, you will merit people in your life who are equally dedicated.

And if you shouldn’t be points-scoring with your friends, how much more so with your biological loved ones!   No matter how difficult, you must exert every effort to maintain and build those relationships.  The second you find yourself point-scoring with your siblings, or worse yet, your spouse, you’ve meandered down the wrong path in the relationship.   It’s not about tit-for-tat; it’s about loving them unconditionally and being there for them at all costs, whether or not they reciprocate.

That’s not easy.  It can be a real challenge to consistently contribute to a lopsided relationship.  But if the Almighty has sent you that challenge in life, he knows you can handle it.  Your relatives are there forever, whether or not they’re as devoted as you are to the relationship. 

It’s tough when they didn’t make the effort to attend your kid’s bar-mitzvah and now you’re thinking of ditching their simcha.  It’s tough when you’re the one always calling them to say ‘Good Shabbos’ and they never even remember your birthday.  Rise above the challenge – they will always be related to you and just because they aren’t making the effort doesn’t mean you should start keeping score and reciprocating their insensitivity.

True relationships should never be about point scoring.  May you merit finding real friends that you can always count on and giving it your all in every lifelong relationship – whether those you’ve chosen or you’ve been biologically blessed with – with no expectation in return!  

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