The major motto by which I have tried to live my life is one of which I have often mentioned in my writings.
The Aramaic text reads “o chavruta o mituta” (give me companionship (friendship) or give me death.
For many years I had attributed it as being a rabbinic statement found in Pirke Avot, the Talmudic text of the Ethics of the Fathers, wise men who had lived and died centuries ago.
But only a few days ago it occurred to me to search, like a good Mossad agent (not me) would do, and I found that the source of the statement was a sage named Rava, frequently quoted in the Talmud, who lived in Babylonia in the 3rd century before the common era (BCE).
(For those who enjoy counting, it is approximately 2,500 years ago).
I doubt that he put a copyright on his thousands of remarks, ergo, I feel no guilt in quoting him without paying a revenue tax.
And yet, that one statement of thousands of his entered into my heart when I was about 18 years old, making it now almost 70 years in my memory-vocabulary.
My life, the often bitter and the frequently sweet, is encapsulated in Rava’s comment on friendship. As a teacher in the yeshiva at Pumbeditha where printed textbooks had not yet been invented, all learning was based upon, rote, repletion and memory.
Students sat on the ground or on very low benches huddled together and repeating over and over to one another the words which their teacher had just spoke.
In that situation, huddling gave way to companionship, to very close and precious friendships.
I have very few friends that I remember in my childhood years. My first real friendship was made in 1951 when I was 18 years old and as I have written in previous articles it happened in a southern desert place in biblical history called Beer Sheba.
A few of my classmates wanted to continue south to the Dead Sea magnificent sand-and-sea-and-sun spot called Umm Rashrash by the Arabs, and by the Jews the glorious jewel now known as Eilat, just a few stones throw from the port of Aqaba in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Without wanting to repeat so much of the story in hundreds of my articles, briefly I remained alone in the Beersheba desert with the Beduin arabs until a military truck drove by with a few young soldiers under a canopy in the back of the truck.
One signaled to me to hop on board and join them for coffee in an army canteen. We sat, we sipped, we smoked, we spoke and by the time they were ready to leave, about two hours later, we had become fast friends knowing much about one another. As they were returning to their truck, the one who had invited me to join them slipped me a small piece of paper with his name and address somewhere in the city of Rishon Lezon, established by pioneers from Russia and Romania in 1882.
Students of Israeli history are familiar with all the details.
To make a long story longer, our friendship which began over one cup of coffee lasted for 61 years and grew in leaps and bounds by more of the friends he had introduced me to. Several of them have died. But 63 years now a handful of us still breathe, eat, drink, pray, eat some more, pray some more, drink some more and………………..
Hey, dear readers. What is this leading up to. Well… since you are curious I am obligated to tell you.
Meanwhile, while you are eating more, I am drinking more. Plain water with ice cubes. At my age my mouth gets very dry. So……………I promised to tell you.
It is about a very young man who lives in Jerusalem with his wife and five year old daughter Liorah (I also have a 53 year old daughter named Liora).
For privacy I will only tell you that his name is David. We have never met, never seen one another, never exchanged home addresses or telephone numbers…only two men who enjoy writing. God has blessed David with great creativity. If you read his beautifully-written work you will more clearly understand, as I approach the end of my life, why David B. is a friend in need and MY friend indeed.
Anonymous friends who share one another’s blogs.