I realised I was on to a loser with this sermon two Shabbatot ago in my community when I asked the question: Who uses Facebook here? -and only about four people put their hands up...
Well here it is anyway.Today I want to talk about friends and friendship-
This is all initiated thanks to a lady in the community who frequents my Monday afternoon Shiur and said “Rabbi, it’s really important that you speak from the pulpit about Facebook and its dangers”- so dutifully I listen.
Who uses Facebook?
After all Mark Zukerberg- the founder and inventor of Facebook is a Jewish boy and happens to be one of the richest people on this planet!
Don’t get me wrong-it’s not all bad.
Facebook is a fantastic invention and I use it. It allows me to make contact with friends whom I haven’t seen in years. It allows family who are living on the other side of the world to keep in touch- to upload photos and videos. It allows me to engage in conversation with my friends from the privacy of your home at any time of night and day. It allows me to contact people with whom I may not see on a day to day basis.
Have I sold the idea to you?
However-with all this - You know I’m quite jealous- many of my generation use Facebook. Nevertheless, if you look at peoples profiles you will see that there are many out there who have so many friends. 300- 500- is not unusual. I have one Rabbi friend from Stamford Hill with a beard and peyot down to his pipick who has over 1800 friends, and it’s not rare for some to have as many as 3000 friends on Facebook.
I consider myself quite a public figure-yet until recently I only had a meagre 40 friends on Facebook. Am I unpopular, do I not get it? Am I out of touch? Do I not have any friends?
So two weeks ago I embarked on a find-friends-on-Facebook crusade- and I’m up to 180 friends- not bad huh?
And this is the point that needs to be made. If you are on Facebook you are living a delusion.
You think that everybody out there is your friend, but they’re not necessarily. You’re having a private conversation with one person, but the truth is that it’s not really private because other people get to see it. And Facebook with it’s exhibitionism destroys boundaries between the public and the private.
But not only that- it’s the usage of the word friend- I think Facebook cheapens that word by using verbal inflation.
The Mishneh in Pirkei Avot says “acquire for your self a friend”. Rambam explains there that there are three aspects to being a true friend – a chaver.
First a friend is someone to whom you can turn at a time of trouble. Someone in whom you can rely without the need to ask.
Second, a friend is a person to whom one can communicate one’s deepest thoughts, no matter what they are.
And finally, a friend is one with whom you can share common goals and values.
If you cogitate on these words you suddenly realise that in life we have very few true friends.
Think about Joseph who was told by his father Yaakov:
“Go and see the well being of your brothers who are shepherding in Shechem”. Note the word Shalom- which means well being, but of course also means peace. See if your brothers have peace and pursue peace with one another.
Yet he comes to Shechem and he finds the man in the field who asks him: “What are you seeking?”
“Et achai anochi mevakesh- I seek my brothers!”
My father Z’L used to say on these words that Joseph was making a qualitative statement
I seek my brothers- I look not just in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense as well- who is really my brother? Who is somebody in whom I can confide? In whom I can really trust and who shares my goals and my vision in life?
And this is all connected with the Mishkan-that we have been studying these past two weeks- because just as the Mishkan was built on a physical plain so too there are deep hidden mystical interpretations of each part of that Mishkan.
The kapporet was the covering on the top of the Aron. On these were two Kerubim – cherubim- in English that were fashioned from the same piece of gold. The faces of these Kerubim had, according to one interpretation- the faces were of children- a boy and a girl or malachim- angels.
Vehayu hakeruvim porshei kenafayim lemaalah- the Keruvim spread out their wings above.
Upheneihem ish el achiv and their faces pointed towards each other.
The Medrashic statement is that when Israel is good with one another then Cherubim would face each other- a sign of Divine happiness when there is peace and brotherhood in Israel.
Indeed the Baal Haturim points out that the end letters of these words upheneihem ish el achiv spell out shalom- peace!
So back to Facebook- it’s a great tool to be used- but that’s it.
We have to realise the importance of each and every real friend and thank Hashem for the true friends that we have.