Today’s daf (Eruvin 64a) makes reference to an oft-quoted (yet oft-misunderstood) teaching of Mari bar Rav Huna which informs us that ‘a person should only take leave of their friend while engaged in a discussion of [practical] halacha – for by doing so, each will remember the other [on every occasion that they study or observe this area of halacha]’.
Explained this way, the halachic conversation between the two friends serves as a powerful tool that helps each person regularly think about the other, and it is a wonderful example of Judaism’s emphasis of the value of friendship and how, whatever is going on in our lives, we must make sure that we stop and think – on a regular basis – about those whom we care about.
Yet beyond this explanation (which I believe is the basic meaning and intention of Mari bar Rav Huna), I would like to share a further interpretation of this teaching which I recently encountered.
According to Rabbi Yehoshua Halevi Zambrowski (in his ‘Chemdat Yehoshua’ commentary on Ein Yaakov p. 31), ‘when two friends separate from one another, their hearts are tender and they are receptive to hearing all good things. At such a moment, each should use this opportunity to share words of Torah and words of Mussar with each other [and should not hold back from doing so], because such words, [offered at a time of tenderness and vulnerability,] enter their ears and hearts…. [By doing so], they will remember your words as they will be written on their heart.’
Based on this, when friends part they should not only say something to each other that helps each remember the other, but they should actually be prepared to say things to each other that need to be said which – given their emotions at the time – they may be most receptive to hearing (nb. Moshe famously did this in Sefer Devarim when preparing for his departure [from this world], at which time he used the opportunity to share both Torah and Mussar with Bnei Yisrael). What we learn from here is that with the privilege of friendship comes the responsibility of friendship which includes the requirement to help friends be the best they can be.
Today, there is much confusion between online social media ‘friends’ and real-life friends – which not only leads to a misunderstanding of the power of friendship, but also a misunderstanding of the responsibilities of friendship.
Real friends care about each other enough that they try and find reasons to remember each other (even when studying or practicing halacha!); real friends are aware of the challenges each other are facing (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe once put it, ‘How can you say you’re his friend if you don’t know if his financial situation is in order?’), and real friends care enough about each other to say what needs to be said – while knowing that the other will be receptive to hearing those words.
In this period of continued uncertainty, friendship is one of the few lifesavers that each of us have to turn to. Given this, and in the spirit of today’s daf, it is essential that we are in regular contact with our friends and that we set reminders to speak with them so that we can – as best as is possible –understand their current situation and also share whatever we think they need to hear – whether it be Mussar, Torah or Chizuk.