Buy Yourself a Friend

Over the years, along with giving up or sharply reducing my consumption or patronization of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream, Target, and Starbucks, we stopped our subscription to the Wall Street Journal. In varying degrees, each one of these businesses was advocating or endorsing positions to which we object. However, at the risk of letting you into one of my deep, dark secrets, I do access the WSJ through my library account, largely because I enjoy doing their crossword puzzles. Once online, I peek around the paper and while ignoring those columnists who raise my hackles as well as the news reports that mimic other newspapers, there are always worthwhile (and occasionally brilliant) pieces as well.

There was an article on February 20, 2024, that I found interesting, if somewhat depressing. “Can You Solve Loneliness? These Startups Are Betting on It” describes how entrepreneurs and investors are building companies that will teach people how to get together and facilitate connection. One of these budding entities even has plans for a children’s TV show that will teach young ones how to make friends.


I am all in favor of small businesses. Creative individuals are seeing a need and filling it, sometimes initially at no cost or for a requested donation. At the same time, this particular entrepreneurial initiative is tragic. We used to fulfill our need for connection at synagogue and church, Rotary, and quilting bees. We participated in community organizations, joked with co-workers, volunteered, approached a new neighbor with a welcoming smile and a cake. We got married, had children, and those children played on the street with the kids down the block. We befriended the parents of our children’s friends. We forged relationships based on interests and proximity.

Here is a saying from ancient Jewish wisdom: “…buy yourself a friend.” I don’t think the rabbis meant it the way these new businesses do. Rather, there was an understanding that to get a friend one must be a friend. Unlike family, which just is, friendship is based on giving and receiving. (We explore friendship in depth in our book The Holistic You: Integrating Your Family, Finances, Faith, Friendships, and Fitness.)

Having succumbed to terrible ideas which led to awful social policies that have harmed rather than helped, the powers that be, such as the U.S. Surgeon General and his counterparts around the world are declaring a crisis of loneliness. Widespread feelings of isolation and disconnectedness didn’t just happen like tornadoes do. They were caused by powerful people promoting poisonous policies. These really bad ideas have caused many parents to lose what used to be natural parenting instincts. In response to their feelings of inadequacy, they purchase vast catalogs of ‘educational’ children’s toys, and they secure the services of experts and therapists. In the same way, people are being guided in ways that cause them to lose their natural instincts for establishing and maintaining friendships. Certainly, some can choose to use the services of these new businesses that cater to this sad and unnecessary need. Others can just reject the pathetic cultural messages beamed at them, put down their electronic devices, rebel against the institutions and ideas that handicap them, and return to traditional ways. Undo and fight the damage and the need for groundbreaking new solutions will disappear.

This Musing is dedicated in memory of Netta Epstein, age 22. On October 7, 2023, Netta threw himself on a grenade tossed into the room at Kibbutz Kfar Aza where he and his fiancée, also 22, were sheltering thereby saving her life.

And with prayers for the safe release of all the hostages, and among them, Keith Siegel, 64. He and his wife Aviva were kidnapped on October 7, 2023, by Hamas terrorists from their home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza. His wife has been released.


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