Kenneth Cohen

Positive Influences

There is an important lesson to be learned from Noach. It is truly remarkable that he was able to withstand the pressures of the corrupt world that existed at that time.
We similarly give credit to Avraham Avinu, who was able to be unique in his generation. He was strong and steadfast in his belief in the one true G-d in a surrounding of Avoda Zara, idol worship. This is why both Noach and Avraham are given so much praise. It is really difficult to stand alone, against enormous pressure to be like everyone else.

We must accept that we are not Noachs or Abrahams. We are likely to be influenced by the behavior of those around us. It is extremely naive to think that we could stand alone with our beliefs and convictions, when we are the only ones who feel that way.

This is why the rabbis emphasize the importance of choosing to live among good people, that share our beliefs, and way of life. We are able to get strength from being around such friends and neighbors.

The only exception is living in Eretz Yisrael. The Talmud tells us that it is better to live in a city of idol worshippers in Israel, rather than in a city of Jews, outside of Israel.

Obviously, this is not the recommended place to live in Israel. But the Talmud is letting us know how we are influenced positively, simply by breathing the air of Eretz Yisrael, and walking on its holy soil.

Over the years, I have warned students and friends, not to settle in a place that they would be affected negatively. Those who didn’t listen, were affected negatively. This is very sound advice. After all, we must recognize that we are not Noach or Avraham.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at