There is an Oriental Jewish romance from about 150 years ago that deals with the nature of friendship. In this story, a father complains that his son spends too much money and time on his friends. The father inquires of the son how many friends he has, and the son estimates them to be about one hundred. The amazed father replies, “I have lived much longer than you, and in my entire life I have accumulated only one and a half friends.”
They devise a plan to test the friends, whereby the son goes to one of his friends at midnight, carrying a loaded sack, saying that he has just killed the Crown Prince in a duel, and asking for help in burying the body and a place to hide. One friend after another throws him out immediately upon hearing the story, and none of them is willing to risk giving him help. The son returns to the father and says, “I understand now what you said about my friends, but are yours better?” The father then sends him first to his half-friend. The son knocks on the door at midnight, and upon hearing the story, the half-friend says, “You behaved very badly, but you are my friend’s son, so come in. I will bury the body and hide you as best I can.”
I like this story. Never read the original myself. Don’t even know what the original is called. The above was taken from Simple Words by Adin Steinsaltz.
What do you learn from the story? Whatever you want to.
Purim soon. Here’s a great video by some friends of mine.
From Halakhic Man, by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, page 95 (last page of His World and His Life View):
The great Torah giants, the halakhic men, par excellence, were indeed champions of truth and justice. They glowed with a resplendent ethical beauty. Space does not permit me even to begin to speak, for example, about R Hayyim’s unrelenting efforts to realise the ideals of righteousness and equity. Let me merely cite one incident wherewith to conclude this section. Once two Jews died in Brisk on the same day. In the morning a poor shoemaker who had lived out his life in obscurity died, while about noontime a wealthy, prominent member of the community passed away. According to the Halakhah, in such a case the one who dies first must be buried first. However the members of the burial society, who had received a handsome sum from the heirs of the rich man, decided to attend to him first, despite the fact that he had died later, for who was there to plead the cause of the poor man? When R. Hayyim was informed about the incident, he sent a messenger of the court to warn the members of the burial society to desist from their disgraceful behaviour. The members of the burial society, however, refused to heed the directive of R. Hayyim and began to make the arrangements for the burial of the rich man. R. Hayyim then arose, took his walking stick, trudged over to the house of the deceased, and chased all the attendants outside. R. Hayyim prevailed – the poor man was buried before the rich man. R Hayyim’s enemies multiplied and increased.
Thus have halakhic men always acted, for their study and their deeds have blended together beautifully, truly beautifully.