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Who are you following?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

"I will connect with so-and-so, but he will not influence me." "I will watch this movie, but it will not affect me." This week's Torah portion explains why these are erroneous notions. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are significantly influenced by what goes on around us, by what we hear and see.

The Parasha describes how, in the desert, the tribes arranged themselves around the Mishkan. This was not merely a technical matter with no effect. The tribes of Yehuda, Yissachar, and Zevulon camped adjacent to Moshe and Aharon and therefore became more refined and scholarly. The tribe of Reuven, on the other hand, camped next to Korach and was consequently dragged into Korach's rebellion against Moshe.

The lesson our Sages derive from the outcome of this tribal arrangement is clear: "Good fortune to a righteous person and to his neighbor as well; woe to the wicked, woe to his neighbor, too." (Sukkah, 56b) In other words, whoever is in your vicinity influences you, for good or for bad.

Our commentators explain that, therefore, it is most important to know how to answer the following questions: With whom are you close to in life, with whom do you keep company? Do those in your social circle have a positive influence on you? Who are your peers? Who are the people whose opinions matter to you?

In the Parasha we see that the influence of others may have consequences for generations to come, that a particular milieu can affect the fate of a family and its descendants. And, of course, we are not only affected by others but affect them as well. Do we have a positive influence on the people around us?

And these days we need to relate not only to our neighbor in the home opposite ours, but to our "neighbor" on social media as well, and to ask ourselves: Who are we following ? In which WhatsApp group do we find ourselves and why? The Parasha reminded me of the idea that first we shape reality, and then reality shapes us.

Shabbat Shalom (With whom you are spending it with is a matter of critical importance.)


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