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“Avraham said to Sarai: Your maidservant is in your hand; do to her as is good in your eyes” (Bereishis 16:6).



Avraham and Sarah had settled in Eretz Yisrael and had not yet been blessed with children. Sarah then advised Avraham to have children with his maidservant, Hagar. It was a good suggestion, as Hagar soon conceived.

However, when Hagar became pregnant and Sarah had not, Hagar began to act superior to Sarah, who turned to Avraham for advice. The Yismach Yisroel (R’ Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzchok Dancyger, 1853-1910, the son of R’ Yechiel Dancyger, founder of the Aleksander dynasty), asks: Obviously, Avraham Avinu was instructing Sarah to treat Hagar in the way she thought was correct. Sarah, however, put Hagar in her place and was not kind to her.

The Yismach Yisroel cites the Mishna in Avos (5:19) “Whoever has the following three traits is among the disciples of Avraham Avinu … a good eye ….” What is a “good eye?” The Yismach Yisroel explains that it is when one sees his fellow Jew in a positive light, i.e., he looks for the good is in every Jew. In this way, one sees the potential good in the other person and he is able to influence the individual to change for the better.

This is a universal concept that is relevant to a parent/child, rebbi/talmid, teacher/student. We learn (Horayos 12a) that R’ Mesharshiya told his son to look intently into his rebbi’s face as it says (Yeshaya 30:20), “And your eyes shall see your leader.” In turn, when the rebbi will look at his disciple, he will see his latent good and will focus on bringing out the best in the disciple.

However, in order to benefit from such a relationship, the individual in question must be open to accepting the positive influence and be ready to change.

Certainly, Sarah possessed the “good eye” to facilitate the change in Hagar and to influence her to conduct herself in the proper way. But Hagar was not of the mindset to change her attitude, to yield to Sarah, and she fled to the desert.

The Torah tells us (16:9), “An angel found her … in the desert … and he said to her: Return to your mistress and submit yourself to her domination.” The Yismach Yisroel explains that the angel encouraged Hagar to be receptive to Sarah’s authority, because Sarah had a strong predisposition and aptitude to have a positive influence on Hagar.

The power to direct the thinking and behavior of others is noteworthy, regardless of whether it is a positive or negative influence. Certainly, seeing the good in others is a significant component in being able to affect them favorably.

The Mishna in Avos (1:7) cautions one to distance himself from a bad neighbor, and not to associate with him. The Rambam (Hilchos Dei’os 1) elaborates and states that it is natural for man to be influenced by his friends and acquaintances, and to embrace the customs and mores of the place where he lives. Therefore, he says, one should associate with the righteous and distance himself from the wicked as Shlomo HaMelech advises (Mishlei 13:20), “He who walks with the wise will become wise, but he who associates with fools will suffer.” The Rambam strongly cautions that one who lives in a place where the inhabitants do not follow the proper path should move to a place where the people are righteous.

The Rambam continues, stating that if the people are corrupted all around the world, or he cannot relocate to a place where the spiritual conduct is better, he should seclude himself, as it says (Eicha 3:28), “Let him sit alone and be silent.”

During the Second World War, the Brisker Rav was forced to relocate with his family and they fled to Kovno.

When R’ Kalmanowitz, who was the rav of the city, heard of his arrival he immediately went to welcome the revered Rav.

Although he persistently knocked on the door, no one answered. He considered the possibility that they were afraid enemy troops might be at the door, so he waited patiently at the door. Finally, the Brisker Rav called out, “Who is it?”

Rav Kalmanowitz responded, “It is the rav of the city, Rav Kalmanowitz.”

The Brisker Rav called for someone to open the door, but it took a very long time. When the door was finally opened, Rav Kalmanowitz noticed that there were many heavy sacks of grain on the floor.

R’ Kalmanowitz asked, “What is the explanation of this? There is no war in this city. The enemy is very far from our land; there is no reason for these sacks of grain.”

The Brisker Rav explained that he was fulfilling an explicit halacha and he showed the above-mentioned Rambam to Rav Kalmanowitz. “Here in this city,” said the Brisker Rav, “there are maskilim, there are those who deny Hashem, people with terrible middos who do evil deeds. We need to go far away. But this is a time of war, and we can’t go. I am secluding myself in my home, and therefore it’s difficult to get into the house. It takes one half hour of work to remove the sacks blocking the door because outside there is danger. The children know that we have no connection to that outside world. We are not connected to anything – not to their deeds, not to their entertainment, not to their education. We have nothing to do with the city.”

This was a very important lesson about protecting and guarding our families against negative influences.

At this time, we pray to Hashem for the protection and security of each and every soldier in Israel. May they remain safe and secure, and may each and every one of them return home in good health. May every last hostage be returned in good health. May every city, every street, and every home in Israel have shemirah elyonah (Heavenly protection). And may the worldwide Jewish community hear besuros tovos, yeshuos and nechamos.


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Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.