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Powerful People

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

Listen to the short Fascinating Insights podcast at https://jewishpodcasts.fm/fascinating-insights, where it can also be downloaded!

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Powerful People

The Rambam[1] writes it is natural for a man’s character and actions[2] to be influenced by his friends[3] and associates and for him to follow the local norms of behavior. Therefore, he should associate with the righteous and be constantly in the company of the wise, so as to learn from their deeds. Conversely, he should keep away from the wicked, so as not to learn from their deeds.[4] For this reason, we are instructed to distance ourselves from a bad neighbor and to not associate with the wicked.[5] This is just as it says הולך את החכמים יחכם…, one who walks with the wise will become wise while one who associates with fools will suffer.[6]

 

Studies show that we pick up the moods and habits of the five people we spend the most time with. The energy of those that we surround ourselves with makes an enormous impact. Their positivity becomes our positivity. Their tendency to dream bigger leads to the expansion of our dreams. Their positive outlook on the world and on others becomes our perspective as well. And their encouragement and belief in us becomes the impetus for us to view ourselves in a brighter light. And when we are surrounded by the wrong people, the opposite is true. This is the intent of ובמושב לצים לא ישב,[7] praiseworthy is the one who doesn’t sit in the company of scorners. Don’t hang out with negative, cynical people as they drain your energy and get you down.

 

In Soviet Russia, there were Jews that assembled in secrecy in a basement in order to learn together and strengthen each other in religious observance which was against the Russian government. This secret meeting grew larger to the extent that it couldn’t contain them all. One week several new interested participants arrived during the shiur. However, there was no room for them. In the basement was a long-time member named Boris who because of his weak religious background, couldn’t comprehend the learning that took place. As a result, some senior members murmured to each other that maybe they should ask him to leave in order to create space for someone who would grasp the learning. Boris overheard this exchange which caused him to then address the crowd. He rolled up his sleeve showing his many scars. He explained what happened. He was once sitting in a café in Moscow and unbeknown to him there was a group of revolutionaries present plotting against the Russian government. Suddenly, the KGB entered and started beating everyone. Boris said to a KGB officer that he was just eating lunch there and had no connection with these revolutionaries. The KGB officer responded, “If you are sitting with the group, then you are part of the group.” And he continued to beat Boris, leaving him with scars. Boris then said, “Even if I can’t grasp all the learning but being with the group makes me part of the group.[8] I want to sit with these Jewish revolutionaries here in this basement.” That night, those present learned more from this story than the shiur that took place.



[1] Hilchos Daos 6:1

[2] Man’s ethical makeup is a combination of character and action (See the Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos, מצות עשה 8).

[3] Just prior to the passing of R’ Avraham Jungreis, the father of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, he asked to be carried to his sefarim shelves. He kissed each sefer goodbye and said, “These are my best friends. It’s very difficult to say goodbye.”

[4] Now we can have more Kavana when we say at Shacharis והרחיקנו מאדם רע ומחבר רע, distance us from an evil person and an evil companion.

[5] Avos 1:7. When the American soldiers went into combat in World War Two, 25% of them were unable to kill their enemy, since it’s not easy psychologically to kill another person. The Americans hired a team of mental health professionals—psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers—to teach these soldiers how to kill, in which they were successful. Years later, during the Vietnam War, the Americans again began this program with the mental health professionals. However, this time, it was immediately canceled. This was because there was no need for this program since it was the first war fought by a generation raised on watching television. As a result, they already knew how to kill because they saw many murders on television. What can be said of today where the youth spend an immense amount of time surrounded by such violent scenes and murders in movies they watch, video games they play and the like? (This doesn’t even include foul language, criminal behavior and other negativity they are exposed to from this.)

[6] Mishlei 13:20.

[7] Tehillim 1:1.

[8] This idea is also brought forth from the following: Depending on the passport one holds is the number of destinations he can travel to. As of 2021, the best passport to hold is from Japan, as one with a Japanese passport gets visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 191 destinations around the world. With a passport from the United States or the United Kingdom, one can get access to 185 countries. On the other hand, one in possession of an Afghan passport has access to just 26 countries. So while a person from Japan, the United States or the United Kingdom may be wicked, he is granted access to nearly all countries. On the other hand, a good person from Afghanistan has limited access. This is because if he is part of them, he is classified as one of them.

Author of three books including the recently released Extraordinary Insights

 
Listen to the short Fascinating Insights Podcast at https://jewishpodcasts.fm/fascinating-insights

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