Esti learns what a real friend is.
Esti was a vivacious seminary girl with strong opinions, unwavering self-esteem, and a ton of friends. Esti was, in fact, a magnet for friends.
To be near her was to bask in the glow of her self-assurance, her “with-it-ness,” and her popularity. She was great. She wasn’t overly generous, but let’s face it: how many of us truly are? She was like most of us in that regard – okay, with a serious need for improvement. Not the end of the world.
Then there was Ruchi. We all know quite a few Ruchis. Ruchi was a year younger than Esti. She was sweet and genuinely generous and…well…“a little off.” You know, like someone wearing a tichel with the center ornament just off to the side. Ruchi spoke with a slight lisp and often suspected she was being made fun of (which, unfortunately, was sometimes true). She would then get all red in the face and stammer.
Ruchi had one hero she admired above everyone else. Yes, our Esti.
Now that put Esti in an awkward position. She was just a girl growing up, having a reasonably good time, with little patience for those on the sidelines. Unfortunately, Ruchi’s idiosyncrasies rubbed Esty the wrong way. Her “nebbiness” irritated Esty like a sound of a fingernail scratching on a blackboard. She couldn’t help it. She was genuinely repelled by the adoring Ruchi and just wished her gone.
Around Esti, Ruchi simply glowed. She would greet her idol with a smile that revealed braces, which weren’t always very clean. Esti would groan inwardly. Most times Esti was actually pretty good at concealing her aversion and Ruchi was so infatuated she didn’t notice a thing. Esti was HER FRIEND! Wow!
Ruchi would offer Esti to get together. She invited her to her birthday parties and tried to expand their “friendship,” and took all of Esti’s refusals as the price you had to pay to have a superstar like Esti as a friend.
But one day Ruchi decided to force the issue. It was a bad move, with terrible timing. Even popular girls have bad days and problems. Oblivious as always, Ruchi found Esti and asked why it was always she who did the inviting while Esty turned her down and never reciprocated. “Friends don’t treat friends that way.”
Esty exploded. “Friends???” she exclaimed. “We’re FRIENDS?? You’ve been pestering me FOR YEARS. We’re not friends, we never were friends and we never will be. Every time I see you I want to run away! JUST. LEAVE. ME. ALONE. ALREADY!!!” Esti turned and stormed away, fuming.
Ruchi stood there, all color drained from her face. She wanted to run, but didn’t trust her legs to carry her. Walking away, Esti couldn’t help but feel some regret because she didn’t really mean to be vicious, but she was secretly relieved, too. Ruchi would leave her alone from now on. She never asked for Ruchi’s admiration, so why was she responsible for not reciprocating the feelings?
Both girls graduated, and they didn’t see each other again for many years. They both got married, too. Ruchi married a gentle yeshiva boy who became an accountant, and who cherished his awkward wife like a precious jewel. Over the years they had seven children.
Esti, of course, got married too. Her bashert fit her status as a star, a smart and popular girl. A astute businessman, he did very nicely. They bought a nice house and owned two latest-model cars. The only thing wrong with this picture was that fact that that wonderful house was empty. All medical tests showed there was no problem with either of them, but seventeen years after their wedding they were still without children.
Esti looked at her image in the mirror. Her sheitel was expensive and exquisitely cut. She looked as radiant as ever. Only her maturing hands told the story of the passing years and the rapidly closing window of opportunity.
Truth be told, her life was empty. She had a husband who loved her, yes, but the strain was hard on him as well. Time was encroaching; they were nearing their forties. Esti realized she needed a miracle.
Of course she and her husband reached out to Gedolei Yisrael for blessings and advice. Each one asked them if ever in the past they hurt someone deeply and never made amends. When the third Gadol asked, a light bulb finally went on in Esti’s mind.
Esti stood on Ruchi’s doorstep and cried like she had never cried before – and the more she cried, the worse she felt. She was sorry, of course, but she was apologizing mostly because she needed a yeshuah.
And wouldn’t you know it, Ruchi was the same Ruchi; still “slightly off,” still as kind and generous as ever. She took one look at Esti and understood everything – both the said and the unsaid. “Of course I forgive you.” She hugged Esti and consoled her, which made Esti feel even worse, of course.
Looking into Ruchi’s kind, wise eyes Esti suddenly realized how lucky she would have been to have her as a friend all along. She cried harder in her remorse. “I’m so stupid” she wept. “I was stupid when I was young and I’m still as stupid as ever. Stupid…stupid…stupid…”
“No, you’re not,” Ruchi said.
“Yes, I am. You don’t know what’s in my heart.”
Ruchi smiled, “No, but I can venture a pretty good guess. You’re not stupid at all, you’re just normal. You were always popular and successful, and that’s a very hard nisayon. Like being rich, it’s a honey-trap. I forgive you with all my heart. Don’t worry.”
Esti just held on to her, the tears streaming down. “Can I be your frend?” Esti whispered.
“Of course,” Ruchi said simply, as she started crying too. “Oh, how many years I’ve waited to hear you say that…”
About ten months later Esti gave birth to a girl.
This is a true story. “I’m so lucky,” Esti says when she recounts it. “Hashem had mercy on me and gave me a second chance. Of course I can’t roll back the lost years…
So sit back in a quiet room, alone, and reflect. When you hurt someone, the two of you are tied to one another with invisible chains – until you make amends and set both of you free.
Just do it.