Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Power of Negative Influence

By Nati

by GYE Member (See all authors)

Torah tells us about "Birkas Hashem", a euphemistic term which actually refers to the exact opposite - one who curses the name of Hashem, chas veshalom. The Torah teaches that one who commits such a crime in front of witnesses is put to death. We learn how the witnesses and the dayanim place their hands on the defendant's head before he is executed, as if doing semicha. Why, indeed, do they? Semicha is something that is generally done to a korban - it would hardly seem like the appropriate action to perform on someone about to be put to death?!

The Vilna Gaon answers that the analogy to a korban is quite accurate: the witnesses and dayanim do semicha on the sinner because he is to be their "korban." Despite the fact that they did not commit any sin on their own, their exposure to such a terrible deed taints their souls to the point that need a kappara. And that is why they do semicha on the perpetrator before carrying out his sentence.

There is a sobering lesson to be learned here: how potent our surroundings can be, and how important it is to shield ourselves from negative influences. One who is exposed to ideals and principles that are foreign to our religion can suffer devastating consequences, chas veshalom, even without actually doing anything wrong. But we can take comfort in the fact that the reverse is also true: one who surrounds himself with positive influences, and places himself in an environment of Torah and mitzvos, is assured an extra advantage in his Avodas Hashem, and can reach the highest heights imaginable.