June 12, 2024
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June 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Friendships can be tricky sometimes. People who are close can grow apart, friends can become jealous of other friendships, and then there are all the assorted problems with cliques and large groups of friends. “But not us!” thought Riva and Ariella. “We will be best friends forever!” Although everlasting best-friendships are rare, these girls seemed to be on the right track. Since meeting in second grade, Riva and Ariella remained as close as sisters, no matter what got in their way. In the 11 years from second grade through high school, Ariella’s family moved six times, and no matter where to (even when Ariella’s dad became the chief rabbi of Kazakhstan), the girls stayed in touch, speaking almost every day.

Even Hashem seemed to be on team Rivariella. As second grade approached (before the girls had even met), Ariella was set to attend the local Hebrew academy, and Riva was to continue at the Hillel school. However, the identical random unexplainable computer glitch occurred at both schools, causing each girl’s record to be removed from the system. While getting this sorted out, Riva and Ariella began the year at a new school that had yet to be named.

On the first day of school, Riva entered the classroom and put her backpack on the back of a chair where she wanted to sit. A minute later, Ariella walked in and sat on the other side of the room. Riva left the room for a moment, and when she returned, she saw that the strap on her brand-new backpack (with a perfect rating on Amazon!) had snapped, and her bag was on the floor. Another girl, not realizing what happened, had taken the seat, so Riva was left with the only desk left in the room—right next to Ariella! And if these coincidences weren’t enough proof that the girls were meant to be best friends, three days later, the school’s official name was announced—Bnos Emunas Simchas Toras Imahos Esther Shaindel, or BESTIES! Needless to say, they never went back to their old schools.

Now, at 26 years old, the girls had gone in different directions in life, but remained extremely close. Riva was married with a young daughter and living in New York City. She had a steady job as the social media manager for a restaurant chain, and seemed to have things figured out. Ariella, on the other hand, was just getting started. She graduated college with a degree in history, and was originally planning on going to law school. However, those plans changed after a unicycle accident, in which Ariella’s head luckily landed on a giant bag of marshmallows instead of the ground. (She was not wearing a helmet.) Just missing out on a terrible injury caused Ariella to imagine what would have happened had that bag of soft confectionary delights not been there to break her fall. Ariella immediately scrapped her law plans, and booked a flight to India to begin a trip around the world and “find herself.”

Throughout the trip, Ariella stayed in touch with Riva. Riva helped Ariella think through her life plans, choose the right words to say to her parents (who were worried, of course!) and decide what to do next on her trip. Most of Riva’s and Ariella’s conversations centered around Ariella’s life, although Ariella occasionally asked Riva for updates about her own life and family. Eventually (after two years!), Ariella “found herself,” came back home, and realized she wanted to be a lawyer after all. So she applied to law school, was accepted to her top choice, and was finally set to graduate. Riva was so proud of Ariella that she and her husband took the day off to attend the graduation ceremony.

After each graduate was announced and received his or her purple sash, Ariella descended from the stage to greet her friends and family. She spotted Riva with her family and smiled, but something felt off. For the first time in her life, Ariella was jealous of Riva. Here Ariella was, just finishing law school, two years later than she should have, and not having yet started her life. Riva was years ahead because she always had everything figured out!

Ariella knew this feeling of jealousy was foolish, but it didn’t leave her. For the next few weeks, Ariella and Riva continued their usual communication, but it just didn’t feel the same. One evening, while Ariella was in the middle of an excuse for why she had to get off the phone so quickly (“I just realized, I’m out of figs! I need to get to the fruit store before it—”) Riva interrupted her. “Ariella, what’s wrong? You haven’t sounded like yourself lately. Did I do something to upset you?”

Ariella, not wanting to lie to Riva about something so serious, told her best friend everything. Ariella hoped that being honest about her jealousy would make it go away, but it didn’t. “I don’t know what to do, Riva! This came out of nowhere, but I can’t help my negative feelings toward you!” After a moment of silence, Riva began. “Ariella, I think you can work this out. Let’s start with—” But now it was Ariella’s turn to interrupt Riva. “No, Riva, I don’t think I want to hear your advice now. I need to go buy kiwis, uh dates, uh figs. Goodbye.”

So, for the first time in her life, Ariella was afraid that she and Riva might no longer be besties. And for the first time in her life, Riva feared losing Ariella as a friend.

Fortunately for both, Hashem was still on team Rivariella. Later that night, neither Riva nor Ariella could sleep due to their earlier conversation. Each bestie kept checking her phone for a sign from the other: a missed call, a text, anything. But at exactly 2:15 a.m., Riva’s and Ariella’s phones each experienced the same random glitch in the form of a YouTube video. The video, which began playing on its own, was of a shiur about the Aseret HaDibrot from a rabbi neither Ariella nor Riva had even seen.

The rabbi began his lecture by explaining one well-known difference between the first five dibrot and the last five. Namely, that the first five are about the relationship between people and Hashem and the last five are about the relationship between people and each other. He then moved on to an interesting point about the last five. “If these dibrot are meant to teach us the right way to treat each other, we might have expected Hashem to present them in a positive way. Yet, the opposite is true. ‘Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t be jealous.’ All five of these dibrot are written in the negative—what not to do. What is the meaning of this?”

The answer the rabbi presented gave Riva and Ariella the insight they needed to fix their friendship. “Hashem is teaching us that the first rule of friendship is to respect the other person’s right to be himself or herself. Don’t interfere with who they are, just give them the space to be. This is the reason for the ‘don’ts—to teach us not to interfere. Once you begin to interfere, even in a helpful way, you run the risk of hurting that friendship.”

As the video came to a close, Riva reached for her phone and called Ariella, who picked up on the first ring. “Ariella, I’m sorry that I’m always giving you advice. I want you to know that it’s only because I love you, not because I think you need to change who you are.” That was all Ariella needed to hear. “I know that, Riva. But I don’t think I realized it at the time. I probably felt you didn’t think I was good enough! I’ll never mistrust you again!”

From that moment on, Riva and Ariella never once questioned their best-friendship.

Sometimes friends need advice, and other times friends just need us to listen. May Hashem grant us the wisdom to tell the difference. Shabbat Shalom!


Yair Daar is the middle school dean of students at Yeshivat He’Atid. He can be reached at [email protected].

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