Kenneth Cohen

They Made Us Bad

There is a declaration made when offering the Bikurim to the Kohein. This is called, “Viduy Bikurim.” In it, we briefly recount our history, the obstacles we needed to overcome, and express gratitude that we are in Eretz Yisrael, offering our first fruits.

When we mention our experience in Egypt, the Torah says, וירעו אותנו המצרים, which is commonly translated as, “The Egyptians afflicted us.”

But there is another possible translation to וירעו, that simply means, “they made us bad.” This is a powerful warning for all time, to stay away from negative influences. A good person that “hangs out” with a bad crowd, will be negatively affected.

This is what makes parenting so challenging nowadays. There are so many things that young people might find enticing, while, in reality, going in a particular path, might make them bad.

The Rabbis constantly urged their students to run away from a place with negative influences. This is particularly true today, when the lack of values runs rampant, and “darkness is called light, and light is called darkness.”

The only exception to this rule, is living in Israel. For even if one lived in a place of idol worshippers, but it was in the Holy Land, he will not be affected. The holiness of the Land, will protect him, and still allow him to grow spiritually. One certainly shouldn’t take that chance, because the overall point must be taken seriously. We must put ourselves and our children in the best possible environment for teaching right and wrong. If we do not do this, we will be made bad!”

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