Friday, July 15, 2011

Sheva Brachot Speech

The following is the d'var torah portion of the speech, that I gave at my nephew's Sheva Brachot last night. It's based on one of Rabbi Yochanan Zweig's divrei torah for Parshat Balak, but I adapted it for this speech:

In the last bracha of the Sheva Brachot, we find a curious expression: “…Ahava v’achva v’shalom v’rei’ut.” – “Love and brotherhood and peace/harmony and friendship.” That’s what we’re wishing the chatan and kallah. Now it seems logical that there is a reason for the order in which this was phrased, and it seems further logical to presume that the order would be ascending.

But in Parshat Kedoshim, we find the commandment, “v’ahavta l’rei’acha ka’mocha” – “Love your friend as you love yourself.” Well, if you’re commanded to Love your Friend, then he/she had to have been a Friend already. And that implies that Love is greater than Friendship.

Well which is it? Is Friendship higher than Love, or vice-versa?

In his commentary to Pirkei Avot, the Rambam cites Aristotle who defines various levels of friendship: The most common are simple friends; friends with whom one shares experiences, and enjoys spending time. But even though we enjoy their company, we still maintain a façade with them. We are not willing to present our vulnerabilities to them, because we’re afraid that the information might somehow come back to bite us. Much rarer, and much more significant, are the friends with whom we place our complete trust, and for whom we are willing to let down our façade; to share our insecurities. This can only happen when we know that this friend is completely dedicated to our growth and success; that his/her motivations are guided only by his/her concern for our best interests.

Taking that into account, perhaps there is no contradiction between the verse in Kedoshim and the phrase in Sheva Brachot. They’re just talking about different types of “ray’im”. In Kedoshim, we’re commanded to love our simple friends as we love ourselves. But that’s axiomatic for a married couple. They’re already in love. In the Sheva Brachot, Chazal have us blessing them that their relationship should, BE”H, transcend Love and move right up the chain to Reyut – the second kind; the kind that involves complete trust in one another.

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