Rashi cites the sages who say that when Rivkah passed by the Beis Medrash (Torah study halls) of Shaim and Aiver, Yaakov tried to come out. When she passed by places of idol worship Eisav tried to get out. There is a big question here: We can understand why Eisav tried to go to places of idol worship. But what about Yaakov? Why did he want to leave the womb when he passed by the Beis Medrash? We know that before one’s birth, an angel teaches him Torah in the mother’s womb. Why was Yaakov so anxious to leave such a wonderful teacher? Why leave the world’s best study partner?
There is one answer of which I would like to focus on: Rav Zelig Pliskin shlit”a writes that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l answers that if one has to be with an evil person like Eisav, it is preferable to even give up the opportunity to study with an angel! Even though Yaakov had the best study partner, it’s better for him to leave all due to bad influence. We are influenced by our friends and our surroundings. It is crucial to keep a distance from someone who has a negative influence on you even if it means some personal loss.
Of course, this goes the other way around. One has no idea how far his good influence on another person can go! It can change his life! In 1938 Rav Avraham Bender zt”l, a roving rabbi, who was raising funds for his yeshiva ventured beyond his normal route into a less affluent suburb of east Pittsburgh.
Of all the city’s Jews, Rabbi Bender trusted the kashrus (kosher certification) of just three Pittsburgh families. One of those families was the Scheiner family, whose teenage son Isadore had just graduated from Peabody High School and was planning on going to college to study mathematics. As they spent time together the young man made a good impression on Rabbi Bender, and turning to his host, Rabbi Bender asked, “Why don’t you send your son to yeshivah?” “Are there still yeshivahs in America?” replied Mr. Scheiner, unaware of the glimmerings of a religious future growing in New York.
Eventually, the Scheiner family agreed to send Isadore – their only son with Rabbi Bender, who accompanied Isadore back east to a Yeshiva. Now, as they say, the rest is history. Isador, the public-school graduate from Pittsburgh who wanted to become a mathematician went on to become the great Rav Yitzchak Scheiner zt”l the world-famous Rosh yeshivah of Kamenitz in Yerushalayim!
We see from here the incredible power of reaching out! We see the power of one’s positive actions! One has no idea how far his actions can go! From a public-school boy to a great Gadol Batorah (Torah scholar) – all because someone reached out! Someone took a positive interest in him!
I would like to add that we just released an exclusive interview with Rav Gav (Rabbi Gavriel Friedman). This clip is a must-listen – especially during these hard times. The interview is available on all main streaming platforms. To receive our weekly email, email us at [email protected]. Have a great Shabbos!