Bihaaloscha – Stay Away From Bad Friends

Among the travails recounted in this week’s Torah portion of Biha’aloscha was the “Asafsuf,” Egyptians who had joined the Jews in their Exodus from Egypt. They were also known as the Eirev Rav, and they originally started out with proper intent to follow Hashem, but soon began trying to convince the Children of Israel to complain to Hashem again, this time about a lack of meat, going so far as to say that they preferred Egyptian bondage over the presence of Hashem (see Bamidbar 11:20).

“The rabble (Asafsuf) that was among them cultivated a craving, and the Children of Israel also wept once more and said, ‘Who will feed us meat?’ We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge; the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now, our life is parched, there is nothing; we have nothing to anticipate but the manna” (Bamidbar 11:4-6)!

Based on these pesukim the Ralbag learns a lesson that we must guard ourselves from unscrupulous friends. This we see from the fact that because the Jews were connected to the Asafsuf (Eirev Rav) who went out with them out of Egypt, the Jews stumbled when they were pulled towards their weakness, a physical craving for meat, by the Asafsuf. This was even though they had ample provisions that they didn’t have to put any hard work into or go to any trouble to receive, i.e. the manna. This is what the pasuk meant when it said, “The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving and Children of Israel also wept.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

This was not the first time the Eirev Rav caused trouble for the Jewish People. They were also the ringleaders of the sin of the golden calf which had taken place a short time earlier, about a year or so before. The sin of the golden calf almost led to the annihilation of the Jews, if not for Moshe’s prayers. So the Jews should have known to stay far away from these rabblerousers and not to listen to them, lest they get into big trouble again. Furthermore, the Jews had done complete teshuva [repentance] from the sin of the golden calf, with the unified initiative of building and inaugurating the Mishkan, the House of Hashem and completely subjugating themselves to His Service and Will. How could they have fallen into the trap again, again succumbing to the tricks and complaints of the Eiruv Rav?

We see how much of an influence friends or even acquaintances that live in close proximity to us can have! Indeed, we also see the fact that negativity has a powerful draw, easily overwhelming the good and positivity. Therefore it is best to stay as far away as possible from bad friends, to not risk being influenced by them.

Think twice before associating with people who might have a bad influence on you, even if they are well intentioned. The Eirev Rav left their home country to join the Jewish People on their journey towards truth, but unfortunately they were still drawn to their past and where they came from; the desires and attitudes from their upbringing, which got them into a lot of trouble. It’s worthwhile to stay far away from people like this, even if they look like they mean well and are trying to change; if they have a negative effect on you then one should keep their distance.