Last Saturday night after Shabbat, also known as Motzei Shabbos, tears of joy emerged from my eyes. I felt overwhelming gratitude for having such a great friend and brother-from-another-mother, who I had known for over a year now. We both participated in a weeklong meditation retreat by Dr. Joe Dispenza, but actually didn’t meet there. We met through a mutual connection we made at the event. Ever since that connection, our friendship has blossomed into a real brotherhood.
Furthermore - a cool fact - in the Hebrew calendar our birth dates are 1 day apart. Our birthdays are Yesod of Netzach and Malchut of Netzach, which are during the Counting of the Omer week of Netzach, the emotional attribute of victory/endurance. Without getting too esoteric, Yesod and Malchut are the final 2 of the 6 (7 if you include Malchut) emotional attributes that constitute a materialization of said attribute. In this case, I like to say we actualize endurance and victory.
Saturday night my friend gifted me with a book we’ve been learning online together and wrote me a very heartfelt message that led me to cry. To explain the type of friendship, the following is from Hayom Yom (daily lessons) for the 20th of Tevet, which was December 24, 2021:
The Mitteler (meaning middle, although he was the third) Rebbe once answered a student at yechidus (private audience): “When a person discusses his Divine service with a friend and they study together, there are two G‑dly souls pitted against one natural [animal] soul.” The animal soul is also known as the ego, which has desires associated with animals - to eat, survive, procreate i.e anything to distract the person from being fully present.
That Friday I was feeling tense. I explained to my friend, noticing I felt a bit tense, that I felt sad for not having gone to study at yeshiva for longer earlier. His response helped me shift my perspective: On the contrary, he responded, what you have been doing is more impressive and longer lasting. You’ve been making it - this learning and self-improvement - your own, learning with top teachers and chavrusas (study partners). It would have been an easy way out if you had just left before. This perspective he shared helped me realize that this feeling was simply a tactic of the “animal soul.” Thus, adding strength and confidence in my journey.
In Pirkei Avot - the ethics of our fathers - chapter 1:6 “Joshua ben Perachaya said: Provide yourself with a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend; and judge every person favorably.”
It may seem strange that the wording is to acquire a friend, which can infer purchasing. While we may have grown up learning to “make” friends, acquiring a friend hints at a deeper connection. An acquisition means to “get as one’s own,” meaning to personalize and internalize something. When something, or in this case someone, is yours, so to speak, you can always rely on them and reach out to them about any matter from health, relationships, life choices, and so on. This person encourages you to be your best and empowers you to listen to your own voice, as opposed to something or someone separate from you disinterested in your wellbeing.
Someone once asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “Rebbe, what exactly do you do? And why are you admired by so many?”
“I try to be a good friend,” the Rebbe replied.
Unfazed, the Rebbe responded with a question of his own: “How many friends do you have?”
“I have many.”
“Let me define a friend for you, and then tell me how many friends you have.
"A friend is someone in whose presence you can think aloud without worrying about being taken advantage of. A friend is someone who suffers with you when you are in pain and rejoices in your joy. A friend is someone who looks out for you, and always has your best interests in mind. In fact, a true friend is like an extension of yourself.”
The Rebbe then asked with a smile, “Now, how many friends like that do you have?”
We don’t always recognize the holistic health benefits of having - acquiring - a dear friend. Not simply an acquaintance, but a friend. Someone you can share your innermost thoughts and feelings with.
May you find and acquire a friend by this definition.