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Tzav(Leviticus 6-8)

If You Touch It, You Bought It

This week's Torah portion spells out more of the laws regarding the sacrifices the Jewish people brought. And God said that:

"... flesh that touches any contaminated thing may not be eaten, it shall be burned in fire..." (Leviticus 7:19)


Why would flesh that was pure suddenly become contaminated by merely "touching" something else that was contaminated?

This actually teaches a valuable and powerful lesson: we are profoundly influenced by our surroundings. We do become a product of our environment.

Being around any type of behavior that we don't want to fully engage in ourselves is never a good idea. The fact is, when you're around people you don't want to become more like, their behavior - whether you decide to presently do it or not - will eventually rub off on you. You can't just declare that "I will never become like them." Good or bad, your environment will affect you. The sages have said this since the beginning of time.

This is true even if people aren't involved. If someone has a problem controlling his drinking, then it's clearly unwise for him to keep alcohol in his possession. Merely seeing the alcohol or knowing that's it's easily accessible could tempt an otherwise strong and determined person. In many cases, you just have to completely distance yourself from any behavior you don't want to engage in.

Whether we like it or not, we're influenced by the company we keep. And given enough time, we can eventually become more and more like those who surround us. So choose your environment wisely. Because no matter how much willpower and conviction we have to stay "true to who you are," we're all human and for better or worse, we'll change every day whether we like it or not.

April 1, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 14

(13) Anonymous, March 19, 2018 1:03 AM

Joseph stayed true.

I recall hearing that Joseph refused Potifer's wife's sexual advances, and even while he was in prison he stayed true
to the ethical monotheism that his father Jacob had taught him.
So, it may be difficult but not impossible.

(12) Anonymous, March 25, 2016 11:51 PM

Guard your surroundings

Great article by Adam Lieberman. You are influenced by your surroundings even if you think you are not, so keep yourself in the company of good people and stay away from those whose actions are problematic.

(11) Anonymous, March 22, 2016 1:58 PM

Great article! Thanks for posting!

(10) Anonymous, March 27, 2015 3:56 PM

Fortunately the reverse is also true: Your positive behavior can also have a positive influence.

(9) Anonymous, March 25, 2015 11:50 AM

Very great point! Thanks for posting this!

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