Concerning the importance of the friends in the society and how to appreciate them, meaning with which kind of importance everyone should regard his friend. Common sense dictates that if one regards one’s friend as being at a lower degree than one’s own, then he will want to teach him how to behave more virtuously than the qualities he has. Hence, he cannot be his friend; he can take the friend as a student, but not as a friend.
And if one sees one’s friend as being at a higher degree than his own, and sees that he can acquire good qualities from him, then he can be his Rav, but not his friend.
This means that precisely when one sees one’s friend as being at an equal degree to one’s own, one can accept the other as a friend and bond with him. This is so because a friend means that they are both in the same state. This is what common sense dictates. In other words, they have the same views and thus decide to bond. Then, both of them act towards the goal that they both wish to achieve.
It is like two like-minded friends who are doing some business together, so this business will bring them profits. In that state, they feel that they have equal powers. But should one of them feel that he is more competent than the other, he will not want to accept him as an equal partner. Instead, they would create a proportional partnership according to the strength and qualities that one has over the other. In that state, the partnership is a thirty-three or twenty-five percent partnership, and it cannot be said that they are equal in the business.
But with love of friends, when friends bond to create unity among themselves, it explicitly means that they are equals. This is called “unity.” For example, if they do business together and say that the profits will not be distributed equally, is this called “unity”? Clearly, a business of love of friends should be when all the profits and possessions that the love of friends yields will be equally controlled by them. They should not hide or conceal from one another, but everything will be with love, friendship, truthfulness, and peace.
But in the essay, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar,” it is written, “The measure of the greatness comes under two conditions: 1) to always listen and receive the appreciation of society, to the extent of their greatness; 2) the environment should be great, as it is written, ‘In the multitude of people is the king’s glory.’”
To accept the first condition, each student must feel that he is the smallest among all the friends, and then he will be able to receive the appreciation of the greatness from everyone. This is so because the greater one cannot receive from the smaller one, much less be impressed by his words. Only the lower one is impressed by the appreciation of the greater one.
And for the second condition, each student must extol each friend’s merit as though he were the greatest in the generation. Then the environment will affect him as a great environment should, since quality is more important than quantity.
It follows that in the matter of love of friends, they help each other, meaning it is enough for everyone to regard his friend as being of the same degree as his own. But because everyone should learn from his friends, there is the issue of Rav and disciple. For this reason, he should consider the friend as greater than himself.
But how can one consider one’s friend as greater than himself, when he can see that his own merits are greater than his friend’s, that he is more talented and has better natural qualities? There are two ways to understand this:
- He is going with faith above reason: once he has chosen him as a friend, he appreciates him above reason.
- This is more natural—within reason. If he has decided to accept the other as a friend, and works on himself to love him, than it is natural with love to see only good things. And even though there are bad things in one’s friend, he cannot see them, as it is written, “love covers all transgressions.”
We can see that a person may see faults in his neighbor’s children, but not in his own children. And when someone mentions some faults in his children, he immediately resists his friend and begins to declare his children’s merits.
And the question is, which is the truth? After all, there are merits to his children, and hence he is upset when others speak of his children. The thing is this, as I had heard it from my father: Indeed, each person has advantages and disadvantages. And both the neighbor and the father are saying the truth. But the neighbor does not treat the other’s children like a father to his children, since he does not have the same love for the children as the father does.
Hence, when he considers the other’s children, he sees only the children’s faults, since this gives him more pleasure. This is because he can show that he is more virtuous than the other because his own children are better. For this reason, he sees only the other’s faults. What he is seeing is true, but he sees only things he enjoys.
But the father, too, sees only the truth, except he regards only the good things that his children have. He does not see his children’s faults, since it gives him no pleasure. Hence, he is saying the truth about what he sees in his children. And because he regards only the things that can please him, he sees only the virtues.
It turns out that if one has love of friends, the law in love is that you want to see the friends’ merits and not their faults. Hence, if one sees some fault in one’s friend, it is not a sign that his friend is at fault, but that the fault is in him, meaning that because he flawed the love of friends, he sees faults in his friend.
Therefore, now he should not see to his friend’s correction. Rather, he himself needs correction. It follows from all the above that he should not care for the correction of his friend’s faults, which he sees in his friend, but he himself needs to correct the flaw he has created in the love of friends. And when he corrects himself, he will see only his friend’s merits and not his faults.