Does one need to have friends or does a wife suffice?
That depends on what you mean by friends. The Chofetz Chaim always took in guests. He was sweet and friendly. But he never associated with people. He didn’t chaver with anybody. He didn’t have friends. No friends. The Chofetz Chaim didn’t need any friends. He had Hakodosh Boruch Hu. He had the Gemara. He had the Rishonim. The seforim were his very best friends.
Now, the Chofetz Chaim was very kindhearted. He travelled to help Jewish soldiers. He established kosher kitchens for them. He did very well many things for the public. But to associate with cronies, with friends? It’s not necessary. Who needs friends?
I told you once – your very best friend is yourself. You’re your very best friend. I’ll tell you why that is. You have ideals – to fill your mind with only thoughts of Hashem, to develop a Torah mind – and other high ideals. So now you tell your ideals to your friend. So he looks at you funny – like you’re a phony. And that’s enough to cool you off. He laughs at your ideals. Most friends will laugh at your ideals.
And that’s why it says, יהיו לך לבדך ואין לזרים אתך – “It should be for you alone, and strangers should not share it with you” (Mishlei 5:17). Why should your ideas be for you alone? Because strangers won’t appreciate your thoughts. You’re trying to climb the ladder towards Hashem. But people aren’t accustomed to that today. They’ll laugh at you.
When Avraham Avinu came to Eretz Canaan why didn’t he settle in Ir Shalem under the rule of the tzadik Malki-Tzedek? Do you hear that question? Malki-Tzedek the king of Shalem was a tzadik and the city of Shalem was a beautiful place to be. Avraham Avinu should have settled there. Why did Avraham set up his tent in the middle of the desert? The answer is that Malki-Tzedek was a great personality, but Avraham Avinu had already advanced far beyond Malki-Tzedek. Had Avraham Avinu remained with Malki-Tzedek it would have been a big loss for Avraham. Why? Because the ideals of Avraham – his greatness – would have seemed queer to Malki-Tzedek. And that would have cooled off Avraham – and anything that would hinder Avraham would be a big loss.
I explained recently: Suppose a guest would come to Avraham Avinu’s street. So Avraham would run out of his house and fall down on the street – he would fall down on his face to plead. אל נא תעבור – “Please don’t go away from me. Please, I want you to be a guest in my house.” (Bereishis 18:3). And if the guest would say, “No, it’s fine. I don’t feel like going inside to eat right now.” Avraham would plead – אל נא תעבור – “Please don’t pass by. Please don’t go away.” Avraham was lying on the street begging them.
Suppose the people of Shalem would see that. What would they think of Avraham Avinu?! They would think that he’s, that he’s – they would think that he’s nuts. So Avraham Avinu had to be on his own because he was so great – and he wanted to be even greater – so great that others couldn’t appreciate him.
Sometimes a tzadik is so great that others can’t appreciate him. Or her. That’s why Avraham Avinu had to be by himself. You only need a friend if he will help you come closer to Hashem. But a friend just for the sake of a crony. No. There’s no need.
TAPE # E-217 (January 2000)