Dear Mrs. Bluth,
My letter is not about an abusive marriage or a difficult shidduch, however, it is about a relationship – one that goes deeper and stronger than many marriages. I am writing to you about a life-long friendship that died as a result of a broken trust and it is killing me.
Years ago, my best friend and I, upon graduating from high school, were accepted to Stern College and were thrilled to be sharing a room in the dorm. We had been inseparable for years, had basically known each other since we exited from our mothers’ wombs. Schools and summer – we were always side-by-side; almost like two halves of the same person. We were extremely happy kids, well-adjusted and socially active, had good grades and were well-liked and well-behaved. Going to the same college was a natural progression.
Before I left for college, my Savta presented me with her beautiful “Kallah necklace” that I had so admired. She told me that as long as I wore it she would be with me and showed me the cryptic passuk inscribed on the back. I promised to never take it off. And off to college we went.
During our second year, we started dating, a truly frightening and fun adventure that we would have to experience individually and apart from each other. Yet, we would always get together after a date and compare notes. One night, as I was getting ready to go out on a date with a wonderful guy, the clasp of Savta’s necklace broke. Not having time to try to fix it, I left it in my drawer and told my friend to remind me to take it to the jeweler the next day. Things moved to the next level that night and when I came home I told my best friend that we were getting engaged and I had a thousand phone calls to make. She seemed thrilled and happy for me, as she, too, was seeing someone seriously. In all the excitement, Savta’s necklace was forgotten, but lay safely in a drawer.
The next few months were filled with plans for both of our engagements and then my wedding at the end of June. As I packed up my dresser, I suddenly realized that the necklace was gone. Together my friend and I tore the room apart looking for it, but came up empty-handed. I was heartbroken, but my friend convinced me to accept that it was all Hashem’s will and meant to be. We returned home and threw ourselves into wedding preparations – our weddings were a week apart.
Sadly, our time together would soon come to an end. I moved to Eretz Yisroel so my husband could learn and she was moving to California. We swore to stay in touch and that time and space would never cut the umbilicus that bound us together.
We did keep in close contact for about a year and a half, but time passed and we great apart. After about six years, we moved back to the States were my husband took a position as a pulpit rav.
About two years ago, a new family moved into our neighborhood and, being the rabbi’s wife, during their first Shabbos in shul, I walked over to meet the wife. I was shocked to see my old friend. But what shocked me more was seeing my Savta’s necklace around her neck.
Her face went white, then green and then she swooned and would have fallen to the ground if the gabbai’s wife hadn’t caught her. Trying to keep my composure, I, too, stayed until she came around and then, made a quick exit as women were coming to offer her water and smelling salts. But my exit was not lost on them.
The next day, I found a letter in my mailbox from my “friend,” in which she begged my forgiveness for her deceit and asked if we could meet so she could explain in person and return the treasure to me. It took me many days to work through my feelings of betrayal, distrust and something bordering on hate before I could respond. I had a letter dropped off at her house which simply said, “Please Return Savta’s Necklace!” I received the necklace that same afternoon.
It’s been four weeks now. She keeps trying to call me and I avoid her at all costs. Yet, I know I have to figure out how to deal with my anger. Part of me desperately wants to see if there is anything left, the other half wants nothing to do with this evil person. My life is full with other friendships and family, why do I need her? But in the dark of night, my heart yearns for the specialness of what we had, a closeness that is so rare and so beautiful that it probably could not have continued to exist, even without her deceitful act. Please help me sort this out.
Friendships are a vital part of the life experience. Friends of every level offer us the ability to broaden ourselves and grow as human beings. Friends offer support when we’re in doubt, comfort when we’re in pain, and a crutch if we need to lean on someone when we encounter stumbling blocks. However, the kind of friendship you describe one that begins in infancy, and is not cultivated in maturity, can become problematic.
I’m not saying that such a friendship is destined to fail as the two parties make their way into adulthood; however, there is bound to be a testing ground and often that test may end in failure.
I happen to know two such friends who did make it. Sadly, when one of the pair passed away, the blow was so great for the friend who remained that depression and sadness has stolen away her will to live.
Getting back to your particular experience, let’s try to see what can be salvaged. You have been betrayed by the one person in your life who was as close to you as you are to yourself. Such a betrayal is beyond description or understanding. But you have both matured into adults and, hopefully, attained a higher level of understanding. Hashem, whom we should model in all things, created the idea of forgiveness and teshuva; should we not emulate Him in our actions towards our friends?
The mere fact that in the depth of your distrust you can still long for that glorious friendship leads me to believe that there is still a place that can be cultivated. If you can find the place in your heart that misses that, and muster up a kernel of forgiveness for an act that was perpetrated by a young person still growing into adulthood – and who probably suffered from the guilt of her act all these years – I think there is a slim hope that something resembling a friendship can re-blossom. But that ball is now in your court and I am hoping you are still in the game.
Being a rebbitzen, you must know that you are tasked with doing the right thing. Your congregation of ladies will be watching you and wondering how this will all turn out. Are you up to it? Or is it simply a job, a role you must play because your husband is the lead actor in this play?
If I was a betting person, I would bet all my chips on the rebbitzen who helped her husband grow a notable congregation from the few families they first came to serve. This they did from leading by example and by bringing out the best in their congregants. So, good friend, I’m hoping I’m right and that somewhere down the road I will receive a note saying you made the right choice. That a fractured, broken childhood friendship tested by time and pain, emerged into a strong and solid friendship that can weather any test time will bring.