For “Shabbat360” of 2023/5783 our theme and logo this year was a meaningful twist on the Life360 app which shares location and other phone info with selected friends and family for safety and comfort purposes. Their slogan is Find Friends and Family, we called ours: Find Jewish Friends and Community at UAlbany.

Just before Shabbos I saw a tweet online from Sanjiv Sanghavi that said: “Everyone should have a friend who has no idea what your job is and doesn’t care.”

I’m assuming the sentiment in the tweet is that too many of us are judged or judge others by their line of work, their position or salary. So its good to have friends who like us as is, and don’t really care if we do surgery or sanitation, if we’re the CEO or a new hire. And there’s a lot of merit and value to that sentiment. The Friediker Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Chabad) has a whole talk about how in America there’s too much misplaced emphasis on “what is your worth?” and “what do you do?”.

But Sanjiv’s tweet made me think of an opposite story, a simple story with a powerful message about friendship. Joseph Telushkin tells this story in his book “Rebbe”:

R’ Zalman Shachter (later known as Zalman Shachter-Shalomi) became close and attached to Chabad in the 1940’s, became a dedicated disciple of the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe, and was later one of the Rebbe’s first emissaries as the Shlichus idea was developing and barely starting to catch on. As time went on, he experimented with various things and found his own religious/spiritual path and disconnected (or graduated as he says) from his Chabad roots. At the time he was living in Philadelphia, the Rebbe once met with the Shliach R’ Avraham Shemtov and asked him if he was in touch with Zalman Shachter (who was formerly with Chabad). Avraham Shemtov answered yes and that they were friends. So the Rebbe asked if he knew whether Zalman Shachter was earning a living, how he was doing in terms of parnossah? But Avraham Shemtov didn’t know. The Rebbe replied, “how can you say you are his friend if you don’t know how he’s getting by?” (writing from memory, but that’s the gist of the story).

This week I happened to hear the following story about friendship, and it relates to this point:

L. tells the story of how his daughter was diagnosed with a tumor at a very young age. He and his wife dropped everything, they quit their jobs and put all their focus and energy on her diagnosis and treatment. But bills starting adding up quickly and soon L. found himself with unable to make ends meet. One day he got a notice from his landlord and couldn’t pay at the grocery and the financial stress was adding up atop the medical stress. He left the hospital or clinic to go out and get fresh air, and there drives by a longtime friend D. The guy rolls down the window, waves to his friend L. and tells him to hop in. L. got in the car and they talked and shmoozed. He shared about his daughter’s medical situation, but didn’t mention a word about his financial stresses. The drove here and there, around Brooklyn, and finally stopped in front of D.’s house. He said he had to go up to the house for a second and would be back at the car soon. He came back down and shoved a wad of cash into L.’s pocket. L. said, “That $1,000 felt like a million!” D. understood his friend’s need and stepped up when he knew what needed to be done.

Know Thy Friends! Try to know their needs and wants, to be aware and in-tune, even without them mentioning anything.