Enjoy your friends (Pirkei Avos, 4:12)

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Rabbi Elazar ben Shamuah said: Let the honor of your student be as dear to you as your own honor, and let the honor of your friend be like the honor of the awe of your Rabbi, and let the honor of your Rabbi be like the awe of  Heaven.”

A friend is a great gift. The wonderful benefits of friendship embrace the most important things in life: companionship, advice, support, and the opportunity to care for each other. What is the key to preserve and maintain a good friendship?

Rabbi Elazar ben Shamuah reveals the secret. Because friends are so comfortable with each other, there is a tendency to sometimes “lighten up”. However, it is vital to maintain respect, even in the most comfortable friendship.

For instance, let’s say you go out to eat with your spouse or friend. As you sit together and enjoy a good meal, you relax more. As you grow more casual and comfortable, you tend to be less formal. In the spirit of friendship you might make a joke, that offends your partner.  

Respect is the foundation and core of every relationship. While the absence of respect, even if unintentional, undermines the mutual trust.

In this light, Rabbi Elazar ben Shamuah taught, “Let the honor of your friend be like the honor of the awe of your Rabbi.” He is not saying to have the same quality of awe for your friend that you have for your Rabbi. That level of awe would hamper the comfort of the relationship.

Rather, just as it is important to always show respect to our Rabbi, so too, it is important to always show respect to our friends. In this way, our friendships will always be preserved, strengthened, and joyful  (based on the commentary of the Yavetz to Pirkei Avot).

Today: Take care to show constant respect to all of your friends.

Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation

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