Dear Rachel,

You know that song “Let It Go?” Well, I can’t. It’s very hard for me to let go of friendships or relationships. I am a very loyal person, and once I become connected, I want to stay connected. I have no problem with making new friends; I just don’t want to let go of the old ones. I get hurt and angry when people sever relationships, and I can’t understand why they aren’t as loyal to me as I am to them. Please help me let go of them and my resentment.

Can’t let go

Dear Letting Go,

Friendship is addressed in several places in Jewish sources.

In the Talmud, Choni HaMeagel cries: “Either a friend or death.” (Taanit 23)

In Ethics of the Fathers 2:9, Rabbi Yehoshua says that a good friend is the path a person should cling to.

Yehoshua ben Perchya advises: “Acquire for yourself a friend.” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:6)

Interestingly, in all three quotes, “friend” is in the singular.

The bible has very few descriptions of friendship. The archetypical example of a good friend is the friendship between David and Jonathan, the son of his adversary to the throne and later, his brother-in-law. They had a covenant of friendship. Their loyalty and love for each other was pure and perfect. There is nothing one would not do for the other.

There are very few true friendships that are like life bonds and covenants of friendship. We often confuse acquaintances, friendliness, neighborliness and circumstantial company as friendship.

A story is told about a young man who claimed to have many friends. His father said he had only two true friends, and one was closer than the other. He doubted his son’s friends were really true. They tested the father’s theory. The son killed a goat and hid its bleeding carcass in a sack. He went from friend to friend, telling them he had killed a government official and begged them to hide him. They all closed and bolted the door in his face. Then the father sent him to his second-closest friend. The friend, hearing he was the son of his good friend, said: “Well, I probably shouldn’t do this, but I’ll hide you.”

The son returned to the father, admitting he had been right, but asked him why he called the friend who was ready to hide him the lesser true friend. His father replied: “The other one wouldn’t have said, ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t do this.’ ”

Now, don’t try this at home! What the story illustrates, however, is that what we overuse the word “friend.” Our 600 Facebook “friends” are not friends. A friend is someone you have a very close relationship with over a long period of time, with whom you can feel secure in being yourself, who knows you deeply, and who truly loves and appreciates you. It’s a friend with whom you feel a lifelong bond that goes above time, place and circumstance—a true soul sister or brother.

The other kinds of friendships are part of the ebb and flow of life. You win some and lose others as part of change and growth and new circumstances and opportunities. It is counterproductive to try and force people to stay friends with you if they no longer want to. G‑d brings the people who are necessary to our life’s journey into our lives and takes them out of our lives when they are no longer needed as part of the cast of players to help us achieve our life’s purpose. Is it not paradoxical, an oxymoron, to try to hold onto friends?

Ask yourself who among your friends are your real true soul sisters—the ones who have and would be with you through thick and thin, the ones you have acquired and have saved you from emotional death, the ones who would help you in your time of need—a truly good friend? These should be rare, just a few. Maybe even only one. And those are the friendships you should value and continue to nurture.

As far as the others, let go of them if they have served their purpose and move on. And spend more time with your real true friends.

In Friendship,