We have so many relationships in our lives. Our spouse, children, neighbors, and coworkers to name a few. It could get overwhelming thinking about how to excel in each.
Rav Pam zt”l related that he never heard his mother utter a word of lashon ha’ra (evil speech) about anybody. The rav explained that her attentiveness to her speech was not because of an in-depth study of shemiras halashon, the laws of lashon ha’ra, or participation in various Machsom L’Fi groups. Rather, it was because she never saw anything bad in another person. Rav Pam stated that his mother had no temptation to speak lashon ha’ra about others because she only saw the good in everybody, and did not even notice the negative. Wow! What can we do to develop relationships with other people just like Rav Pam’s mother?
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos 2:9 raises a question: What is the proper path for a person to cling onto? Rabbeinu Yonah explains that the Mishnah is asking for the solitary middah that someone should adhere to, allowing them to easily grow in other middos? Rav Yehoshua answers that one should be a chaver tov, a good friend, elaborating that we should think of a close acquaintance that we find easy to get along with, and truly be a genuine friend towards them. Rav Yehoshua continues that when one acts with pure love and care towards this individual, then that love will spill over to everybody in their surroundings.
My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Henach Lebowitz zt”l, asked, “Don’t we often encounter those who are friends towards certain people, yet they just as often do not love everybody in existence? So, what does Rav Yehoshua mean? Rav Lebowitz answered that when it comes to friendships there are two categories.
One is a friendship where we are giving to others, but our real motivation is for ourselves. Here, one sees the friend as someone that can benefit oneself, therefore they should help them out to reap the benefits sought. In this friendship the care and concern is not going to spill over to others because they are not trained to love and give to others, rather their care and concern has only been for themselves.
However, the second category of friendship is when one is a friend to somebody else purely for the other person. An individual sees another’s need and deeply desires to give to the other person simply because of the love and concern they have for the other person. When one can generate such an attitude even with one other chaver, they are training their personality to be an authentic giver that genuinely cares for others. In turn, that love that develops and becomes ingrained in the inner fabric of this person’s character and will ultimately spill over to those they encounter.
If one seeks to develop positive relationships with those in their midst, start by picking one person to fully befriend. Choose someone that you already share a close bond with and develop that relationship purely out of the love for this person. Then, you will desire to give to them wholeheartedly and this love will foster until it bubbles over to all in your proximity much like the pure sweet love of Rav Pam’s mother.
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