Sunday, October 30, 2011

Do you have a "friend"?

Do you have a « friend »?

We have a real desire to socialize with others. Nothing pathetically or gorgeously new. Just humans trying to meet, talk, "paltalk", "messengerize"through wireless connections, online forums. This sounds highly computerized though our hearts and brains may prefer such a hype medium that may be "so very, so much" but not "that real". This kind of connections presupposes that there might be a huge loose pitch of loneliness to overcome and heal. Look, we were so close decades ago. Today, we can search the good old schoolmates we lost. Distance, life... what about friendship?

Totally sacred for the Russians: "druzhba/дружба" (friendship) includes amity between the nations of the world by the time of the communists. In the Slavic cultures, it flows as loving ties and enduring fully trusted fidelity. Very difficult to get to that kind of relationships, but once you're there, don't betray. Never. "Drug/друг" (pron. /droog/), male and "podruzhka\подружка" (female) come from "drugii\другий" (second, other, different and though similar). There is a deep longing for some double - sort of natural and intellectual clone that is so pregnant in the Jewish tradition to find one's " perfect double, alter ego" as the "achawah\אחווה-א" (loving friendship) mentioned in Talmud Sanhedrin 58b.

This question was raised in order to know if love exists or not. Is it physical, mechanical, technical, emotional, i.e. moving and thus to what extent? Are there limits or not? But the Russians do focus on friendship first. In English, "friend" is related and opposes "feud" (enemy) as in German: "Freund" vs. "Feind". In Icelandic "freyja" is a mixture of "friendly mate, love and flirty-wooing”. It gave the word "Friday", a day for zooing before "laudry-day, Laugardagur".

Drop the "r" (that deliciously sounds non-kosher and "oyster-eating month") and love rotates to hatred. Well, "guest" is the same in Germanic languages: to begin with, a foreign person - an adversary who becomes a host, exactly as a "password" originally allows to distinguish between a friend and a foe.

Now, in Hebrew, we have a commandment/mitzvah-מצוה: “You shall love your fellow (neighbor) as yourself - veahavta lere’akha kamokha\ואהבת לרעך כמוך”” (Leviticus/Vayikra 18:19): which means something else. a) Hebrew suggests a fellowman or some closeness, “re’a\רע” would be rooted in “foe” comes to be a friend and companion”. b) There is definitely no “love” as the root and the spelling shows rather that “evil, foreigners, enemies” may be approached, get acquainted, tamed and develop peaceful and even loving relationships without being cheerfully passionate… although this is the real goal: ahavat chinam\אהבת חינם – gratuitous love is possible without implying any “repayment”.

The commandment to “love as yourself” is wise and psychologically witty or insightful. If we don’t love ourselves, whom can we respect and appreciate till we reach full love toward someone else? It might be somehow narcissistic at the present on both sides and lead to split. Paul of Tarsus is right about marriage and love: “So husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it” (Ephesians 5:28-29).

“Friends” is undoubtedly one of the best top-notch terrific television series of the past century. Some more decades and they would really get engaged, but they would rather postpone any long-term bond. Always young and buzzing around, not that mature and grownup teens for ever, they were and remain “friends”. They had decided to live as mates in vicinity flats. In the Former Soviet Union, two or three generations of different families often lived in small flats that mainly caused divorces and family splits.

On the other hand, the Soviets were “comrades”, from French “camarades” (originally “room-mates”) that belongs to the ancient relationships of fraternity or brotherhood. The Quakers call themselves “Friends” and they love each other “more than brothers”, “compagnons = companions” who share bread (cum-, panis), or “sputniki\спутники” (who walk together on the same road).

Ulrich Honecker, the last East German communist leader, would have addressed his fellow people : “Brüder, Brüderinnen! Brothers, Brotheresses” in local speech. “Comrades” was firstly “chaver/chaverim-ot\חבר-חברים-ות” in Yiddish/Hebrew by the time of the Bund and the numerous kibbutzim developed after the fall of Tzarist Russia. The chaverte\חברתא (Yid.) was the brave strong Jewish girl who left university to grow grains in a kibbutz before settling in Palestine. The prestigious Ghetto Fighters’ kibbutz near Akko (Lochamey HaGetta’ot\לוחמי הגטאות) has a unique listing and map in Hebrew and Yiddish of all the first kibbutzim set up in the then Belorussia.

The word is very ancient in Semitic tongues and thus in Hebrew. The Tehillim say something simple: “You need no fear the terror by nigh, or the arrow that flies by day, the plague that stalks in the darkness/ or the scourge that ravages at noon… the Lord will order His angels to guard you wherever you go” (Psalm 91:5-6.11). The same as at the present: all local, wandering or settled tribes and the Children of Israel were and still are frightened by wild nature, earthquakes, animals, humans that can firstly be wild or weird and foes. It is difficult to feel self-confident and to trust anyone in such conditions. Harder to structure “chevrah\חברה – society” based on reliable relationships in view to achieve full co-working activities of “chaverim/ot”.

These “chaverim-ot” are aggregated as socially reliable friends who eventually become “friends, sweethearts, buddies”. English “buddy” refers to “work-mates”, originally a group of plunderers! In the desert, fears and visions, ghosts and dreams can be misleading. This is why the Hebrew language has a large lexicon of words expressing “unity, joint, clutch, gather”. Hebrew requires to violently make efforts in order to overcome individualism, loneliness, solitude and threats. Aramaic “chevra qaddisha,חברא קדישא” is the compassionate association of faithful Jews who would bury the departed. “Chevrah, chavurah\חברה-חברותה-א” is a business organization or a congregation.

But “chaver\חבר” was, in the old days, the first step in the process to becoming a rabbi as a student who was given a letter allowing him to more closely participate in holy Services (Talmud Shabbat 63a). It may be linked to “chabbar” (Parsee priest) as recorded in Talmud Shabbat 11a. This aspect of dedication to praying/learning/preaching activities was the main feature of the spiritual structure of the Jewish people.

Interestingly, Jesus might have used “chaver\חבר” as a certain of confirmation given to his disciples. He never performed any “semichah\סמיכה – ordination” that developed with his disciples in the Acts of the Apostles. On the other hand, he said to his disciples: “I no longer call you slaves (avadim\עבדים) because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I call you “friends (chevarim\חברים)” because I have told you everything I heard from my Father (God). It was not you who chose me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit that will remain… love one another” (John 15:15-17).

It is quite possible that his disciples became “associates, friends, chaverim” in a spiritual sense that developed over two thousand years in various ways to define what grew until now into a very wide open range of possible connectedness.

Av Aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)