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The Company You Keep
Tue, 07/09/2013 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

Recent studies on college roommates suggest that our cognitive styles — whether we face adversity with optimism or despair — are not fixed. After only three months roommates influence each other: the resilient ones change the approach of the pessimists, and vice versa. Once more the ancient wisdom is reaffirmed: we are not only known, but shaped, by the company we keep.

Lot is prepared to sacrifice his daughters to the people of Sodom. The Rabbis note that if you choose to live in a wicked place, you will eventually be shaped by immorality. Surrounding ourselves with kind people increases our own kindness. The example of others who perform mitzvot will motivate us, too.

In her novel “Middlemarch,” George Eliot writes, “‘The theater of all my actions is fallen,’ said an antique personage when his chief friend was dead; and they are fortunate who get a theater where the audience demands their best.” Part of our mission in life is not only to be a good friend, but also to seek good friends in both senses of the word: those upon whom we can rely, and those who are of good character. It will change us and make us better.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

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Hashem placed within me, that odd Jew dna: the ability to access always that one part of another that does want to live a virtuous life, harnessed to a certain naive nature. We forget that it is possible to live a good life in a local known for wickedness.When our ancestors first lived in the larger world, this was their circumstance. "Gated communities" were not by choice and financial fortunate situation then. If one surrounds oneself with Torah and the people of the multifaith world, one can grow. Too, there is the belief that the Earth itself is blessed. Perhaps Jacov's first realization that Somebody did love him and care,( in spite of the young man being let down by everyone including himself), was not only the dream but his knowledge that the Earth is of its nature created good. Hashem did say 'it is good' when he created it, I think. It is good to choose good companions for the journey, but it is wise to know that sometimes we too fall and do not look so finely clothed to our elders. I have been improved by the ability to see more rather than less. As one of my friends and betters, (who was very challenged in our highschool years) told me sincerely, "You know it was about four years after I had my life changing experience of accepting God, that I began to weed out all the crap I took. I was really still the party animal for a few years there." Sometimes we must drink from the well, and be nourished before we act. Jacov did grow. Into Israel. And myself, Child of Jacov, all the way.