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Be a Bosom Buddy

11/14/2019 12:04:51 PM


For what may have been my earliest talent show, I sang a song from “Mame” that was then on my Mom’s playlist: “Bosom Buddies.” As an eight-year-old, I’m not sure I even knew what a bosom was. But Lucy and Maude (Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur) made whatever it was funny. Here’s the crescendo: 

  Just turn to your bosom buddy
For aid and affection
For help and direction
For loyalty, love, and for sooth!
Remember that who else
but a bosom buddy
Will sit down and level
And give you the devil
Will sit down and tell you the truth!

My tribal pride hopes that Jerry Herman, the composer and lyricist, learned this lesson in Torah School. First comes loyalty, then sooth. In Abraham’s confrontation with the King of Gerar, the King asks Abraham to swear an oath of loyalty (chesed) to establish a peace pact between the two peoples. Abraham swears (Gen. 21:21). Literally, the Torah’s very next word is one of rebuke. Only when Abraham and the King enjoy a relationship based on mutual commitment can Abraham “sit down and level” with the King that his royal servants had misappropriated what rightly belonged to Abraham. First loyalty, then sooth.

What “Mame” (and Abe) taught me is that to be a bosom buddy means to be able to give and take constructive criticism. What Torah commands us is to actually give and take constructive criticism. True friends do not let others stray from being their best selves. “Do not hate [the deeds of] your buddy in your bosom-criticize constructively!” (Lev. 19:17)

Fri, March 1 2024 21 Adar I 5784