The Influence of Environment

January 2, 1997

by Rabbi Daniel Schur

Environment has a profound influence on man. Even the most evil of men can improve when he comes into good and noble company. Conversely, even the best man can turn into a serpent, a dangerous creature, if he is put into an environment where corruption pre-dominates.

Moses sought to make Pharoah understand that, although they were hated and oppressed in Egypt, the Jew could become the greatest and noblest among men, if only they would be freed from the corrupt atmosphere of Egypt. To accomplish this end, Moses showed Pharoah the Rod of G-d, the rod upon which the ineffable divine name was engraved. This was the rod by means of which the greatest miracles of all were performed. When it was cast down before Pharoah into the environment of Pharoah, it turned into a poisonous serpent, but as soon as Moses took hold of it, as soon as it returned to the immediate environment of Moses, it was transformed once again into a rod of G-d.

Such is the strength of the influence of environment on man. The environment of the Jewish child in this country is not Jewish; therefore, we must take into consideration that environment in which the child lives, and therefore, it is our duty to make the home a Jewish environment for our children. Judaism in the home must be made the idea of our lives and life that we live must be thoroughly Jewish. The Jew must not only be born a Jew, but must live as one who deserves to be called by that name. The environment of the home must be Jewish in spite of the outer world, which is non-Jewish.

If the home environment is neglected and deprived of all that is Jewish, we cannot look forward that our children will be the future upholders and loyal to Judaism. We must set an example by our lives in our home and our daily life. As parents we cannot discard a religious observance because we do not properly understand it. It is not the fault of the religious observance, but perhaps our ignorance of its meaning. The Mesorah, the traditions, in Jewish life are not ends in themselves, but means to a higher end. They inspire us and bind a world Jewry together.

Jewish tradition creates a Jewish environment that will eventually perpetuate the future of our people.