Three Wise New Year’s Resolutions


I wanted to find wisdom in the Proverbs this year that could serve as the foundation for New Year’s resolutions. So, I looked at the verses that were next in line in my study, and, voila, I found these three. The good Lord responds when we call!


A. “The understanding of a person helps defer anger, and overlooking an offense can be one’s splendor.” Proverbs 19:11

 B. “One who keeps the command keeps life/soul, while one who despises the ways will die.” Proverbs 19:16

 C. “He who is gracious to the poor lends to God, and God will repay him for what he has given.” Proverbs 19:17


Let’s take a look.

A. Of special value to me is Proverbs 19:11. The Hebrew word, sekel, could mean understanding, discretion, insight, or good sense. Whichever way we read the word, we are taught to be patient when having an experience that tends to bring forth anger. Then, we are to defer the anger.

I like that and find it helpful. At the very moment something happens that tends to make me angry, I need to stop immediately and let patience take hold before I react in any palpable way. While anger may come along later, at least patience has had the effect of deferring it.

Then, the second clause kicks in. To the extent that I can overlook what was done that provoked the anger, I may be able to avoid anger altogether. In fact, if I can bring myself to overlook the offense, I might shield both the offender and me from all negative emotions and move forward in peace. Wow. If I could pull that off, the proverb would be exactly right – it truly would be splendid.


B. In the second Proverb, we are taught that there is a timeless wisdom found in the mitzvot (Biblical commandments). By keeping to God’s direction, we profoundly guard both our lives and our souls. But, by disregarding those ways, we diminish and lose all that is life, both here and forever.

One idea we tend to miss on the surface here is that the Hebrew word, mitzvah, can be seen both as God’s direction/command as well as the sort of practical precepts that the sages teach in support of the Divine command. Therefore, we should also cherish all such teachings that point us Godward.


C. The third proverb beautifully makes the case that God has a special interest in the wellbeing of the poor. This Divine stake is so pervasive that God wants us to care, too. Indeed our acting on behalf of the poor is seen as a sort of loan to God, a loan from which, in some way, we’ll be repaid. Whatever form that payment takes and whether it will it be in the here and now or in the World to Come – we certainly have the sense that it includes God’s love, the most precious consideration we could ever receive.


So, here are three suggested New Year’s resolutions we’ve gleaned from these proverbs:

1) Be patient when someone offends. Defer anger. And try to overlook the underlying offense altogether, if possible;

2) Constantly be mindful of God’s directions, and endeavor to do them. Regularly study and follow those teachers who are wise in God’s ways; and

3) Look frequently for ways to help God help those in need, knowing such efforts are seen as “loans” to God, with the promise of the most wonderful repayment.

Grappling with Loneliness in the Modern World

One of the most powerful, seminal Jewish thinkers of the 20th century was Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. He wrote many extraordinary articles and books. Among his best was The Lonely Man of Faith.

In this book, Soloveitchik explores a problem that has much plagued our own society: what causes loneliness in the modern world, and what can be done about it?

Do you feel lonely? If yes, do you wonder why? Do you seek remedies for it? If you don’t feel lonely, do you wonder why so many others do and how they could be helped?

I have endeavored here to bring to the attention of curious people of all faiths prominent Jewish thought on a major topic of great importance in our time. And, with a limit of around 1000 words for the blog, I hope you will be able to grasp its overall meaning in “a single sitting with coffee.”

Of course, there is no real substitute for reading the book. I acknowledge as well, and apologize to both the author and God, for errors committed in the act of in-brief chronicling. But, whether for the purpose of building your interest, giving you fine material for thought and meditation, or paving the way to the world of deeper knowledge, I hope you’ll find true value here.






In our modern world, we are lonely; and it hurts.


1. Modern society is complex, with both good and bad. Among its most worrisome features is its capacity to create a sense of loneliness within us. One often feels like “a stranger in modern society, which is technically minded, self-centered, and self-loving…scoring honor upon honor, piling up victory upon victory, reaching for the distant galaxies, and seeing in the here-and-now sensible world the only manifestation of being.”

2. “I thank God; I enjoy the love and friendship of many. I meet people, preach, argue, and reason, …surrounded by comrades and acquaintances. And, yet, companionship and friendship do not alleviate the passional experience of loneliness which trails me constantly.”

3. Loneliness involves feeling rejected by many, including friends.

4. “I despair because I am lonely and hence feel frustrated.”


Yet, this loneliness drives us to seek God.


1. “I feel invigorated because this very experience of loneliness presses everything in me into the service of God.”

2. “This service to which I…am committed is wanted and gracefully accepted by God…”


There are several steps a person of faith can take to overcome loneliness.


1. First, he/she must “meet God at a personal covenantal level to be near Him and feel free in His presence.”

a) As with Abraham, “only when he met God in earth as Father, Brother, and Friend – not only along the unchartered astral routes – did he feel redeemed.”

b) “When God joins the community of man the miracle of revelation takes place in two dimensions: in the transcendental…and in the human…”


2. Second, prayer is vital. It asks us to “stand before and address ourselves to God in a manner reminiscent of the prophet’s dialogue with God.”

a) “Prayer is basically an awareness of man finding himself in the presence of and addressing himself to his Maker, and to pray has one connotation only: to stand before God… being together with and talking to God.”

b) “The word of prophecy is God’s and is accepted by man. The word of prayer is man’s and God accepts it.”

c) Prayer, though, is not an act we commit alone. “The Foundation of efficacious and noble prayer is human solidarity and sympathy…sharing and experiencing the travail and suffering” of others.

d) “God hearkens to prayer if it rises from a heart contrite over a muddled and faulty life and from a resolute mind ready to redeem this life…Prayer is always the harbinger of moral reformation.”


3. Third, we benefit from faith. The person of faith “finds deliverance from isolation” in the “now, “ which includes both “before” and “after.” The covenantal experience is one that is retrospective in that it “re-experiences the rendezvous with God” (through which the revelation originated). It is also prospective, anticipating the “about to be.”

a) Covenantal people “begin to feel redemption for insecurity and to feel at home in the continuum of time and responsibility which is experienced in its endless totality, from everlasting to everlasting.”

“A person is no longer an evanescent being” but rather becomes rooted in everlasting time, in eternity itself.” He begins to “engage in the great colloquy in which God Himself participates, with love and joy.”

b) Thus, the covenantal person finds redemption…”by dovetailing his accidental existence with the necessary infinite existence of the Great True Real Self.”



We now can find a path forward with both balance and wholeness.


1. We are able to achieve this felicitous result by blending within ourselves and within our communities the attributes and virtues of each of the two Adams we find in study of the Genesis story in the Bible (one in Genesis 1, and the other in Genesis 2).

The first Adam orders his world with dignity, beauty, and creativity. He imitates his Creator by working to make the world a better place. He is one who, for example, “builds hospitals, discovers therapeutic techniques, saves lives,” and, we might add, clicks happily online.

The second Adam wants to know God and have an intimate relationship with the Divine. He strives not so much to hear the “rhythmic sound of the production line,” but rather “the rhythmic beat of hearts starved for existential companionship and all-embracing sympathy…” This Adam feels loneliness when he/she is distant from God or when his/her society is.

2. God, thus, summons us “to engage in the pursuit of majesty-dignity as well as redemption.” “He authorizes man to quest for sovereignty; He also tells man to surrender and be committed.”

3. “Accordingly, the task of covenantal man is to be…in uniting the two communities where man is both the creative, free agent and the obedient servant of God.”

4. We must see and live by “our all-inclusive human personality,” “charged with responsibility as both a majestic and a covenantal being.” Otherwise, we reject “the Divine scheme…which was approved by God as being very good.”



Loneliness for those who resemble the second Adam will remain, though loneliness for most can be relieved.


1. One form of loneliness exists especially for the second Adam when the world (including majestic man) is inhospitable to him and the true message of faith. This loneliness is often the price to be paid by the second Adams when they live true to their mission.

2. Yet, the world is deeply troubled if the first Adam dominates without the influence of the second Adam. “Majestic Adam has developed a demonic quality: laying claim to unlimited power…His pride is almost boundless, his imagination arrogant, and he aspires to complete control of everything.”

3. The answer to our modern condition (its lack of balance, its lack of wholeness, and its loneliness) is to create a true, honored, and respectful place within us and within our society for both Adams.



We can and must rise to meet the challenge.


1. “Majestic man is in need of the redemptive and therapeutic powers inherent in the act of believing which, in times of crisis, may give aid and comfort to the distressed mind.”

2. “To be sure, man can build spaceships capable of reaching other planets without …being awakened to an enhanced inspired life which reflects the covenantal truth. However, the idea of majesty…embraces much more than the mere building of machines, no matter how complex and efficacious.

Successful man wants to be sovereign not only in the physical but also in the spiritual world.”

The Wisdom of A.J. Heschel

One of the great Jewish thinkers of the 20th century was the Professor of Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Heschel was an extraordinarily prolific writer. After his death, Ruth Marcus Goodhill endeavored to capture core thinking from his vast writings through quotations she published in The Wisdom of Heschel.

Here I have taken just 36 of these quotations to give you “a single sitting with coffee” look at some of the very best ideas of this remarkable religious figure.

The flow of thought here follows this trajectory of topics:

A. Meaning in life,

B. Relationship with God,

C. The importance of awe and reverence,

D. The true purpose of religion,

E. The crucial place of the moral and the ethical,

F. The essence of holiness and piety,

G. The significance of prayer, and

H. The nature and imperative of living the commanded life in covenant with God.

 I hope that the value you find in this short list will lead you to read Heschel’s books. Truly, “there is nothing better than the book itself.” But, at least, I hope that this brief encounter with a few of Heschel’s most profound insights will well inform your own knowledge and ways of living.




(A) 1. “What is the meaning of my being?

My quest – man’s quest – is not for theoretical knowledge about myself…

What I look for is…primarily how to live a life that would deserve and evoke an eternal Amen.”


2. “Judaism takes deeds more seriously than things. Jewish law is, in a sense, a science of deeds…Every deed is a problem; there is a unique task at every moment. All of life at all moments is the problem and the task.”


3. “Needs are looked upon today as if they were holy, as if they contained the quintessence of eternity. Needs are our gods, and we take and spare no effort to gratify them. Suppression of a desire is considered a sacrifice that must inevitably avenge itself in the form of some mental disorder.”


4. “Personal needs come and go, but one anxiety remains. Am I needed? There is no man who has not been moved by that anxiety?”


(B) 5. “Man is not an innocent bystander in the cosmic drama. There is more kinship with the Divine than we are able to believe. The souls of man are the candles of the Lord, lit on the cosmic way, and every soul is indispensable to Him. Man is needed, he is a need of God.”


6. “Man’s understanding of what is right and wrong has often varied throughout the ages; yet the consciousness that there is a distinction between right and wrong is permanent and universal.”


7. “The central problem is that we do not know how to think, how to pray, how to cry, how to resist the deceptions of too many persuaders.”


(C) 8. “We fail to wonder…This is the tragedy of every man: “to dim all wonder by indifference.” Life is routine, and routine is resistance to the wonder.”


9. “Awe is an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves…The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe.”


10. “Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the Divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple, to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.”


11. “A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom.”


12. “The story of the creation is not a description of how the world came into being but a song about the glory of the world’s having come into being.”


13. “Every moment is a new arrival, a new bestowal. How to welcome the moment? How to respond to the marvel? The cardinal sin is in our failure not to sense the grandeur of the moment, the marvel and mystery of being, the possibility of quiet exaltation.”


(D) 14. “This is precisely our task: to recall the urgencies, the perpetual emergencies of human existence, the rare cravings of the spirit, the eternal voice of God, to which the demands of religion are the answer.”


15. “Religion begins with the certainty that something is asked of us, that there are ends which are in need of us. Unlike all other values, moral and religious ends invoke in us a sense of obligation. They present themselves in tasks rather than as objects of perception.”


16. “There is only one way to define the Jewish religion. It is an awareness of God’s interest in man, the awareness of a covenant, of a responsibility that lies on Him as well as on us…God is in need of man for the attainment of His ends, and religion, as Jewish tradition understands it, is a way of serving those ends.”


17. “The essence of Judaism is the awareness of the reciprocity of God and man…For the task of living is His and ours, and so is the responsibility.”


18. “God stands in a passionate relationship with man. His love or anger, His mercy or disappointment, is an expression of His profound participation in the history of Israel and all men.”


(E) 19. “A moral person is a partisan who loves the good.”


20. “To be free of selfish interests does not mean to be neutral, indifferent, or devoid of interests, but, on the contrary, to be a partisan of the self-surpassing.”


21. “What we have learned from Jewish history is that if a man is not more than human then he is less than human.”


(F) 22. “Our flesh is not evil but material for applying the spirit. The carnal is something to be surpassed rather than annihilated.”


23. “Holiness does not signify an air that prevails in the solemn atmosphere of a sanctuary, a quality reserved for supreme acts,…or the distinction of hermits and priests…It is (rather) primarily in the way in which we gratify physical needs that the seed of holiness is planted.”


24. “The pious man is ever alert to see behind the appearance of things a trace of the Divine and thus his attitude toward life is one of expectant reverence. Because of this attitude the pious man is at peace with life, in spite of its conflicts.”


(G) 25. “Prayer clarifies our hope and intentions, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget. It is an act of self-purification…It teaches in us what to aspire to, implants in us the ideals we ought to cherish.”


26. “Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives, to let His will prevail in our affairs; it is an opening of a window to Him in our will, an effort to make Him the Lord of our soul. We submit our interests to His concern, and seek to be allied with what is ultimately right.”


(H) 27. “Judaism does not stand on ceremonies…Jewish piety is an answer to God, expressed in the language of mitzvot rather than in the language of ceremonies and symbols. The mitzvah rather than the ceremony is our fundamental category.”


28. “Reverence for God is shown in our reverence for man…To be arrogant toward man is to be blasphemous toward God.”


29. “The supreme imperative is not merely to believe in God but to do the will of God.”


30. “To the Jewish mind, life is a complex of obligations, and the fundamental category of Judaism is a demand rather than a dogma, a commitment rather than a feeling.”


31. “No religious act is properly fulfilled unless it is done with a willing heart and a craving soul.”


32. “The problem of the soul is how to live nobly in an animal environment – how to persuade and train the tongue and the senses to behave in agreement with the insights of the soul.”


33. “The Jewish way of living is an answer to a supreme human problem, namely: How must man, a being who is in essence the likeness of God, think, feel, and act? Every act of man is an encounter of the human and the holy.”


34. “Righteousness goes beyond Justice. Justice is strict and exact, giving each person his due. Righteousness implies benevolence, kindness, generosity.”


35. “Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time.” The great teacher of this is the Sabbath. “In the tempestuous ocean of time are islands of stillness where man may enter a harbor and reclaim his dignity. The island is the seventh day, the Sabbath, a day of detachment from things, instruments, and practical affairs, as well as of attachment to the spirit.


36. “He who seeks an answer to the most pressing question (what is living?) will find an answer in the Bible…There is a task, a law, and a way: the task is redemption; the law, to do justice, to love mercy; and the way is the secret of being human and holy.”

Winning the Battle Over Inner Darkness

During the festival of Chanukah, our family reflects a lot on God’s gift of light and the meaning of light over darkness.

On one level, we think about the victory of the Maccabees over excessive Greek influence and the re-dedication of the Temple. As we look at the ever-increasing glow of candles, we marvel at the Miracle of Lights.

At a deeper level, we explore what it means to have darkness in our souls, whether it comes from the outside or inside, registering physically, emotionally or psychologically. And we talk about what can be done to overcome this darkness and restore light to our lives.

In recent weeks, I have studied the remarkable book, Restore My Soul, written by the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman. Just as the Maccabees inspire us with their story of redeeming light, Rabbi Nachman enlightens us with specific ways to triumph in the war over inner darkness.

Here are 36 key insights that I extracted from Restore My Soul. Take a careful look at them. Don’t rush through – see which of them resonate the most with you. My fervent hope is that if we diligently “train” the “soldiers of our spirit” in a manner that is true to these insights and make them serve effectively, we can win the most significant “battles” we face.




1. We must train to “run and return,” to run to the next level on our journey to serve God and to return when we stray.

2. An essence of God’s greatness is that those who are furthest from Him can also draw near and serve.

3. We shouldn’t be thrown off balance by looking down on ourselves or holding ourselves in contempt. We must get around distractions and obstacles that keep us from reaching goals. Oddly, these problems often appear when we’re close to advancing to the next level.

4. When we get very low, there is a concealment of God, where one may believe there is no hope. It’s hard to find Torah there. But God is in this place, too. There is always hope. There is an exalted life force in this very place. One must look for the stirring of this life force and follow it.

5. Depression is a terrible scourge. We can become caught up in our blemishes and lose hope and morale. We can even come to despise ourselves. This feeds the evil inclination. We must fend it off, especially by finding and feeding joy to the soul.

6. The hardships on the way sometimes feel like rejection. Yet, they’re often steps that bring us closer to the goal.

7. A secret of gaining spiritual strength is speech. Speak to friends, to God, to yourself.

8. Search for whatever goodness you can find in yourself. See it. Look for more. Keep searching, building, and adding.

9. Know that there are inevitable and innumerable ups and downs. Strengthen yourself with awareness and fortitude. Falls and descents can occur on the path. One endures and goes on.

10. “Everyone walks a narrow bridge. Do not be afraid.”

11. “If you believe you can break something, have faith you can repair it.”

12. When forces of “the other side” array themselves against you with power, you may feel crushed. But actually you are getting closer. Be strong. Fight back. It may take time. But you can and will enter the gates.

13. The past is nothing; what counts is from now on. Don’t repeat what you did.

14. When temptations arise, remain detached and in control.

15. Repentance always involves being confronted with situations you have seen before. Don’t get put off, and don’t be swayed.

16. There will be rises and falls. Don’t be distracted. Never give in to despair. Start serving God, as if this is the very first time. Falls create the possibility of spiritual climbs.

17. Success isn’t instant. Don’t lose heart. Keep yearning. Do your part. “Grab a good deed here, a prayer there…and God will do what is good in His eyes.”

18. We are all wracked by confusion, bizarre thoughts, and troubles. Be slow to act in anger, and do not fall prey to despair. It’s tempting, but it leads to further falls. With patience, “new beginnings” are possible at all times. Every day brings forth new creations. “Every day God causes new salvation to blossom forth.”

19. Our lives are rooted in holiness, and our souls are elevated. We tend to forget this when we are weak and have been pushed off course. When we remember it, we are grateful, and gratitude itself leads us forward.

20. All the falls and backsliding in the world come about because people think they tried once, and it didn’t work. They lose heart and end up in despair. “Forget what happened in the past. The essence is Now. Start new, afresh.” It could be with a cry to God, or a prayer, or sitting down with a book to learn, or bringing yourself to joy, or doing the right thing.

21. An extraordinary value of repentance is its power to transform transgressions into merits.

22. All beginnings are hard. It’s hard to get going and sustain, and there’s fear of relapse. But even slight success is glorious. And, with this guidance and God’s support, advancement from level to level is achievable, and the Building can be done. Each deed, scrap of work, and word “bring great joy in the higher worlds.”

23. “There is an answer for every time and every situation.”

24. “Everyone must endure innumerable different times.”

25. “Always be joyful – even if you are poor and under pressure, even when your service of God and prayers feel ragged.”

26. “Keeping the Torah takes obstinacy. If you do something good, repeat it. If you learn something, go over it again. Whatever you start, do it again to get used to it…Pay no attention whatever to the subtle persuasion and insistent demoralization of the Evil One and your other opponents.”

27. “All the wars in the world are really the one war against the evil inclination.” “Let not your heart be faint.” “If you want to succeed, you need faith. You must always have faith in yourself. You must realize that not a single movement you make in the direction of the good is ever lost.”

28. We have faith in God’s direction. “We have faith that God’s loving-kindness is unceasing regardless of what we may have gone through. The starting point is there. Because the foundation has already been laid, the possibility exists that we too can be worthy of kindling the will to holiness.”

29. “The essence is desire.” Strengthen yourself to kindle the will.

30. “If the possibility of damage exists, so too does the possibility of repair. Behavior can improve. Anything that was damaged can be repaired. In the end we will be worthy to return to God and the holy Temple will be re-built.”

31. “It is a part of our condition that we must endure time and change: seas, rivers, deeps, deserts and wildernesses filled with serpents and scorpions. Only thus can we be worthy of entering the gates of holiness.”

32. “The smallest restraint which we put on our wrongdoing will be for our own eternal good. In the end, we will be worthy of returning to God.”

33. “We should never despair of finding what we have lost. If only we are firm in our yearning, longing, and craving for God, there is hope that everything we have lost will be returned to us .”

34. The one goal of all wisdom is to draw closer to God. “Each single day has within it a unique wisdom…Each day also has its own barriers…Make the breakthrough today – break down the barriers and obstacles and draw out the unique goodness which exists only today.” “Exert yourself to the full and never make the mistake of writing off today.”

35. “Come to the temptations and desires which assail us every day. Even a hair’s breadth gesture to resist them is precious to God’s eyes.”

36. “Life must be a continuous progression from level to level.” It is inevitable that there are falls, even as one progresses. These are “trials of darkness before the light.” “You must climb from one level to the next.” There are tremendous obstacles and battles. “At times you simply don’t win.” Bring strength and single-mindedness. Concentrate on the goal. You are duty-bound to this fight. “The very effort you put into the struggle to climb up is precious in God’s eyes.”

Should We Seek Favor from the Powerful?

Many make entreaties to the noble, and everyone is a friend to the gift-giver.” Proverbs 19:6


Before we dig into this fine piece of wisdom, let’s get a better understanding of the proverb’s Hebrew words and its context.

The word for “noble” is nadib. This certainly could be a person who is noble; but, more specifically for us, it is likely to mean a person of position who is rich and perhaps generous.

If so, isn’t it generally true that we are inclined to seek the favor of people of this sort?

The thought follows, given this inclination, that we seek to be a friend of one who gives gifts. Note the Hebrew word for “friend” here is rea, which as we learned last week, is more of a companion or fellow than a true friend.

So, what does this teach? Is the proverb encouraging or discouraging us from acting in the manner it describes? What’s right, and what’s wrong?

First, as with so many proverbs, we get the truth here in all its nuance and balance. Whether good or bad, it’s true that we frequently seek to be a companion to gift-givers. We understand and pursue our interests in doing so. It’s just a fact. And it’s also true, as a result, that we often curry favor with those from whom we could be given gifts.

But is this good or bad? The proverb is careful in answering. That’s wise! We would likely not follow guidance if it were simplistic or taught against our sense of self-interest.

Often, it’s good to act in the ways of the proverb, that is, to make entreaties to a noble. The noble could be a generous, good person who would help us. The noble could also be a philanthropist who gives to worthy causes and encourages others to do so. Indeed the noble could be read to be God or those who serve God. In all such ways, it’s good and right to make entreaties and seek to be the noble’s friend.

Further, it’s inherent in healthy relations with others to have such activity. Some can and want to help others, and when they do, it’s good for the giver and the receiver. And it’s right in the world that this happens and is seen as good.

But this proverb is placed near other wisdom in the Book which appears to warn against our following inclinations to form friendships that are flawed. This can occur when we seek to be “friends” with the powerful on the basis of a material self-interest that conflicts with truly serving God and the community. And it can occur when we insincerely hide our real interest behind the facade of what we pretend to be the community’s interest. Here we find both the foul and the fraudulent.

So, is making such entreaties good or bad? The proverb teaches how it could be both. It presents both our core principles and the facts of life, and then challenges us to make good judgments. Finally, it’s up to us, with proper understanding and wisdom, to live in righteous and loving ways.

Acquire a Friend!

“There are companions for socializing with, and then there is a friend who cleaves closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24


Ancient Jewish wisdom has much of value to teach us about the unmatched importance of true friends.

The first lesson that we see in this proverb is that a true friend is someone more than a person with whom we socialize.

The Hebrew word for friend, ohev, has the same root as the word for love, and means one who loves. The type of friend who, in contrast, is really more of a companion is, in Hebrew, rea. This word connotes a variety of people, including, for example, simply another fellow.

So, what is the difference between a companion with whom we socialize and a true friend, and what are the consequences of that difference?

The proverb teaches, first, that a true friend cleaves closer than a brother. This suggests constancy and a special sort of steadfastness. There is a sense of family in the relationship, perhaps even something that is supra family. The tie is somehow even closer than that with a brother.

How can that be? Could it be that in friendship there are fewer of the complexities associated with the workings of family that tend to impose certain constraints? Also, perhaps the love of a true friend is more voluntary and chosen than one that is imposed by the accident of birth.

There can be love and loyalty with companions, and blood ties do indeed have their own strength. But the proverb seems to be suggesting that a true friend can achieve the rare confluence of both love and strength.

Ben Sira, the sage, taught that some friends are “table companions,” but true friends who are committed unreservedly are “found in time of trouble.”

This wisdom tradition also teaches other attributes of true friendship. A friend will, yes, eat and drink with us. But, more, the friend will also read and study with us, reside with us, and look out for and promote our spiritual and ethical growth. A friend will hear out our needs and problems, and devote time and energy to helping us meet them.

A true friend will rebuke or reprove us (lovingly) when we need it. While an acquaintance or even a brother is sometimes reluctant to do so, a friend who truly cares will often lead us to rectification. This is surely one of the greatest gifts one person can give another. It gives the beneficiary the opportunity to get back on path, improve, and begin to live in the right way again. Proverbs 27:6

In addition, a true friend can offer love, along with strength, and be forgiving, in ways God is forgiving. In mercy, thus, a true friend accepts us and cleaves to us, even with our flaws. Proverbs 28:13

I think the sage, Yehoshua ben Perhahia, understood how vital true friendship is. He put it as crisply and succinctly as it can be said: by all means, “acquire a friend.”