Safe Zones

“… with Datan and Aviram, sons of Eliav, and On son of Pelet, sons of Reuven” (Bamidbar 16:1)

The revolt of Korach against the validity of the choice of Aharon as Kohen and Moshe as monarch was an attack on the essence of the truth of Torah being given from Heaven. If Korach could prove the illegitimacy of Moshe’s appointment then he would have, in effect, demonstrated that Moshe was untruthful in all his declarations and commands on behalf of Hashem.

Ramban (16:1) explains that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the appointment of Korach’s cousin, Elitzaphan ben Uziel, as leader of the Leviim. Korach felt that he was the one next in line for an appointment to a position of honor and could not tolerate the position being given to his cousin. Datan and Aviram and On ben Pelet, however, were from the tribe of Reuven and should not have been at all involved in objecting to any matters in the hierarchy of the Levites. Rashi explains how they became involved in this dispute. “Because the tribe of Reuven would camp on the south, a neighbor to Kehat and his sons who also camped on the south, they joined with Korach in his dispute. Woe to the wicked one and woe to his neighbors.” (Rashi 16:1)

One must react responsibly to the lesson of the tribes and be wary of contact with those who are potentially spiritually dangerous to oneself and one’s family. Rambam teaches that the human being was created to be drawn after the mores and values of those among whom he lives. If the neighbors are good, Hashem-fearing souls, the potential for a neighbor to grow in the right direction increases. If, on the other hand, one resides among wicked people, chances are he or she will slide down a slippery spiritual slope. The children of Yissachar and Zevulun grew to be the prime examples of Torah scholars and Torah-observant business people because of the place they resided, while the people of Reuven joined Korach’s rebellious group because of bad traits they picked up due to proximity to Korach.&

As a young man, Rabbi Yudel Biderman of Lelov was in a situation where he had to daven in a shul where there was a group of men who chattered incessantly. One day he decided to sit in the center of the section where they gathered and to stop them from talking in shul. The next Shabbat, however, Rav Yudel returned to his regular seat. When asked how come he gave up so quickly on the mitzvah he had taken upon himself, he replied, “Truthfully, I felt that if I continued to expose myself to their poor conduct, I would become like them before they would listen to me!”

I once read that a person who wants to pray for the spiritual success of his children should start by pleading to the One Above that his children associate with good friends. There was a man who survived the Holocaust who settled in Eretz Yisrael. His family grew to be an outstanding example of Torah-true individuals. He was asked how he achieved this commendable result. “My grandfather spoke with me before he died and asked me to promise him that wherever I end up living, I should send my children to schools where the learning was exclusively in Yiddish. Although at times circumstances made my life very difficult, I persevered and kept my promise,” he said. He attributed his success to the environment in which he placed his children.

Today the world has no walls and great distances have shrunk to the size of a screen in one’s hands. The ghetto is no longer safe from intrusion and demands a more responsible, pro-active approach. One must protect oneself and one’s offspring from the bad digital “friends” that span miles in milliseconds. Heresy, immorality and all that is bad infuse the air we breathe and the communications we need. News and information must be filtered. Very necessary business tools need a strainer to be cleaned of the societal mores that pollute human interactions in places once untouched by filth. It becomes our responsibility in our times to remain Hashem’s pure children and to do what’s necessary at all costs to insure that our children grow to continue in purity as well.

Choose your environment. Create your safe zones.

Shabbat shalom.