Dear Rachel,

I have a good friend I’ve known for a few decades, but a few years ago she decided she didn’t have the emotional strength to keep up her friendships.

She would no longer meet, invite me over or allow me to visit. Our exchanges took placeShe decided she didn’t have the emotional strength to keep up her friendships occasionally over the phone. She told me it wasn’t personal; it was just something she had to do for herself, and she’s adopted this stance with all her friends. I considered it very selfish behavior, and was very hurt and angry and with her unilateral decision to limit her friendship with me without my consent. Because I care for her and we have a lot in common, I acceded to our brief telephone conversations (you know, like in prison, where you only get one phone call a month).

Anyway, she’s marrying off her only daughter, and now, of course, wants her friends to come to the wedding. The wedding isn’t local; the young couple are holding the ceremony in a forest or something, and it’s not easy to get to. So I’m wondering, after all these years of spurning my friendship when I was begging to see her, why should I even go? Why should any of us?

Sincerely,

Uninvited


Dear Guest,

I hear your hurt and anger, and understand it. But if your friend cut off from all her friends and not just you, then indeed it wasn’t personal. Although there is something selfish about it, there is also something sad and pitiful. You’ve lost touch with one friend while she’s lost touch with all of them. It isn’t necessarily true that now because she needs you, she’s invited you to the wedding. It’s probably more a case of her wanting to share this occasion with her dear friends, despite her difficulty, and she’s probably stressed out about it as well, wondering whether or not they will come.

You’re asking why you should go, so let me suggest a few reasons:

  1. It’s a mitzvah to gladden a bridegroom and bride. The fact that they’ve gone to the trouble of making it in a “magical” forest shows how much this special day means to them. Your friend’s daughter is blameless in this whole thing, and if over the years you had any relationship with her, I’m sure she would be happy to see you and feel hurt if you don’t show up. The Talmud teaches us how big a mitzvah it is to gladden a bride and bridegroom, and dance before them on their wedding day. The extra effort you have to make to get there will only give you a bigger mitzvah.
  2. With all the intermarriage in the world, we should doubly rejoice at a Jewish wedding. I know that many of us are overwhelmed with social commitments, but a Jewish wedding of an only daughter is really a special event and cause for celebration. A Jewish wedding parallels our connection to G‑d. He is our bridegroom, and the nation of Israel is his bride (Song of Songs). Every wedding is a metaphor for this special connection.
  3. The Torah forbids us from taking revenge (Leviticus 19:18). If your main reason for not going to this wedding is the way your friend treated you, then there is an element of revenge in it. That includes showing up at the wedding and making her mother feel bad.
  4. Many times we regret what we didn’t do more than what we’ve done. Your relationship with this friend might change again. The fact that she’s marrying off her onlyYour relationship might change again daughter will leave her with an empty nest, and she may want to reopen lines of communication with her erstwhile friends. Not attending the wedding may be something you regret in later years and become a sore spot that will bother you more than one evening’s inconvenience.
  5. A wedding is a joyous event with good food, good music, and a chance to get together with people you like and maybe meet new people as well. Go and enjoy yourself! Breathe in the revitalizing air of the forest.
  6. The most compelling reason I think you should go though is that there is a difference between having a friend and being a friend. It’s nice when they go together, but G‑d wants us to be a friend. Hillel says: “If I am only for myself, what am I?” (Ethics of our Fathers 1:14). The prophet Michah says: “What does G‑d require of you but to do justice, love lovingkindness and walk humbly with your G‑d?” (Michah 6:8). Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to be humble and do kindness? To be the good friend that you have so missed being to this woman?

I wish you and your friend mazal tov! And may we witness the fulfillment of the verse: “There will again be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the sounds of joy and the sound of gladness, the sound of groom and the sound of bride.” (Jeremiah 33:10-122)

Warmly,

Rachel