I am seeking specifically-Jewish wisdom on the following question. Our rabbis have something to say on just about every aspect of life, but I'm not sure where I should be looking (or even what keywords, really) for this one.

There's someone I used to have a decent friendship with, but over time things degenerated and we both did things we'd now prefer we hadn't done. (I think more of that came from the other person, but of course perspectives are weird.) Recently this person did something I found very hurtful and I made myself scarce. The person has now (unprompted by me) expressed regret, apologized, and said that if we can't be friends yet can we at least not be enemies? I don't want to be enemies either, and responded by saying that (and accepting the apology).

My question is: what can I do to improve this relationship? I can't just pretend that all the hurt didn't happen; it did, a fair bit of it remains unaddressed, trust has been damaged, and I'm human. So I'm concerned about being hurt further, but I'd like to be able to improve on where we are now.

What interpersonal or spiritual practices should I be trying to apply? Is there recommended reading in this area?

In case it matters, the other person is not Jewish (and so is not bound by any halacha that might otherwise apply).

  • not an answer, but hope this helps, I know rabbi volbe in his mussar/hashkafa sefer alei shor has a chapter about friendship Jan 6, 2014 at 3:06
  • 2
    If you now have reason to trust the other person less, perhaps it would not be wise to continue a close relationship. Wholehearted forgiveness does not require you to expose yourself to risk by continuing to confide in or maintain a close relationship with an untrustworthy party. Judaism does not believe in "forgive and forget" insofar as "forget" means blinding oneself to potential future harm (and this is consistent with a more-than-superficial reading of the Rambam Hil. Dei'os 7:8).
    – Fred
    Jan 6, 2014 at 5:26
  • pirei avos says to make sure neither of you are still angry, but from what you've that's covered. It also says that you have to acquire a friend for yourself. A rabbi is easy, you accept that they're your rabbi and that's that. The difficult part is on you, accepting their authority. But you have to do things for friends, to show them that you care and want to be a part of their life. Go to dinner, buy a small gift, offer to help around their house or with an odd job. This is all assuming fred's comment doesn't apply. If you are worried about further damage, I'd call it quits.
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 6, 2014 at 6:16
  • It's somebody I will, of necessity, keep interacting with, so repairing the relationship seems worth trying. I can't avoid the person. Jan 6, 2014 at 13:41
  • @MonicaCellio "of necessity", "seems worth", "can't avoid"... I don't believe a "friendship" can exist where one party is thought of in those terms. Then again, a heart to heart conversation might do wonders. The other party might be willing to accommodate you or adjust their understanding of the nature of your relationship.
    – Sam
    Jan 7, 2014 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


In Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1 Mishna 12, we are told:

Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them. Hillel said: Be of the students of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.

In Pirkei Avot d'Rabbi Natan, what it means to be like Aaron is expanded: (taken from this website)

if Aaron would observe two people quarreling, he would afterwards approach one of them with the following: "I just saw the other fellow besides himself with grief. He's sitting there saying it's all his fault and how can he possibly face you again." Aaron then promptly went to the other fellow with the exact same story. ;-) Needless to say, the next time the people met they were tearfully hugging each other, the life-or-death issues they had been arguing about long forgotten.

Basically, this is teaching us two things. 1. It's ok to lie in order to restore a friendship*. 2. The remorse of the other person should be enough to cause you to forgive them, apologize as well, and wish for the return of the friendship. However, you have to want that friendship to return.

When I was reading your question, I thought to myself, the answer is simple, "apologize, forgive the other person and ask for forgiveness." I was a bit taken aback when you said that your ex-friend had already done that! That is what you were supposed to do!

*Perhaps even to yourself, or especially to yourself!


First decide if you really want to mend the relationship.

The way to do this, is to apply the conditions of repentance to this person. Read the entire chapter 4 of chovos halevavos shaar teshuva here and how he applies it to human relationships (it's short). if he/she has truly fulfilled them, then it is proper to forgive them and overlook their iniquity in the way of "you shall walk in His ways" (Devarim 30:16). Then just forget what happened, and start over with a clean slate, yom kipur style.

If not, then you might want to reconsider since you might just be setting yourself up for more hurt.


Just having a go. I'm sure others can provide better answers. Anyway, hope this helps you.

Halfway down this parsha by Rabbi Lord Sacks he refers to a passage (Shabbat 55a) in the Talmud which eludes to the importance of the presence of clear communication when considering how others should be viewed. You may find it applicable to extrapolate from that, that perhaps there has been a shortcoming in communication between the interested parties. He quotes (with the emphasis mine):

R. Aha b. R. Hanina said: Never did a favourable word go forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, of which He retracted for evil, except the following, where it is written, “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (source). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Gabriel, “Go and set a mark of ink on the foreheads of the righteous, that the destroying angels may have no power over them; and a mark of blood upon the foreheads of the wicked, that the destroying angels may have power over them.” Said the Attribute of Justice before the Holy One, blessed be He, “Sovereign of the Universe! How are these different from those?” “Those are completely righteous men, while these are completely wicked,” He replied. “Sovereign of the Universe!” said Justice, “they had the power to protest but did not.” Said God, “It was fully known to them that had they protested they would not have heeded them.” “Sovereign of the Universe!” said Justice, “If it was revealed to You, was it revealed to them?” Hence it is written, “[Slay] the old man, the young and the maiden, and little children and women; but do not come near any man on whom is the mark; and begin at my Sanctuary [mikdashi]. Then they began at the elders which were before the house.” R. Joseph said, “Read not mikdashi but mekuddashay [My sanctified ones]: this refers to the people who fulfilled the Torah from alef to tav.” (Shabbat 55a)

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