Friends By Rabbi Adam Ross

May 8th 2016

This week Prime Minister David Cameron took Jeremy Corbyn to task for describing the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah as his ‘friends,’ with the leader of the opposition arguing the term was only a diplomatic nicety.

The old Russian proverb says: ‘Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”  But it was Judaism which first taught the powerful impact those we spend our time with have on us.
Abraham grew up in a society of idol worshippers and low morality and was told ‘lech lecha’ – ‘go from here,’ leave it all behind, it’s not good for you to keep such company.

This is not to say, that Judaism advocates cutting ourselves off from the world we seek to improve, it just has to be done wisely. Choosing our friends wisely is of paramount importance.

Ethics of the Fathers teaches it is better to be the tail of a lion than the head of a fox – it is better to be clutching at the coattails of greatness than king of a pack of good-for-nothings. We are who we keep company with, and it is precisely because of this that we are exhorted by Jewish law to move to live in a different place if the people who surround us have a negative impact on us.

The word ‘chaver’ friend, comes from the Hebrew ‘chibur’ meaning connection, a true friend is someone we connect with, we fuse with, we invest in and who in turn invests in us. 

Just as David Cameron lambasted Jeremy Corbyn to pay more attention to who he calls his friends, we can all take a helpful reminder that holding bad company leaves a stain, and that to lead a healthy life both physically and spiritually, we need to choose our friends wisely.


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