In life we need clarity, objectivity and honesty. Often we become so consumed with our everyday living that it’s difficult to be objective about ourselves. Part of the challenge of becoming a great person is achieving a level of self-transience, where we rise above ourselves to view our lives objectively. Often we need other people to help us with this challenge and that’s why friends are so important.
The Mishnah of Pirkei Avot tells us in Chapter 1, “Acquire for yourself a friend”. Rabbeinu Yonah, a commentator from the Middle Ages, gives three purposes for a friend: Firstly, he says a friend is someone to learn Torah with, and secondly, is someone who can guide you if he sees you making a mistake. Thirdly, a friend offers advice when you have a choice or decision to make and need an objective perspective.
As we are approaching Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, it is an especially important time of year to ask for objective input so we can become clear and focused. The month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah is a time of introspection and analysis to assess in what areas we are doing well and in what areas we are doing badly. During this period of teshuva – repentance, special prayers are recited daily, called selichot, asking for forgiveness. But the true reminder to stop and assess the direction of our lives is the shofar.