In chapter 1 of Pirkei Avot, Hillel says "be like the disciples of Aharon, love peace, pursue peace, love others and bring them closer to torah". On the other hand, a few mishnas earlier: "distance from a bad neighbor. do not join the company of a wicked person" (al titchaber larasha).

How does one balance these two? When should one try to draw close versus better to stay away?

  • My recollection - there is a significant meaning in the usage of the term shachen ra vs. rasha. I believe this term is used to refer to someone who is deceptively evil. He pretends to be a nice person, but he really intends to do you harm. This is different from a true rasha. I'll see if I can locate this explanation. It was quite interesting. – DanF Jun 18 '18 at 15:26

When the person is intentionally wicked, there is no obligation to be concerned about keeping him away from aveiros. see Shach on YD 151:7 & biur Halacha (on mishna berurah) 608:2. And thus one should keep away from him.

If he is not such a Rasha, but doesnt know better, Tinok Shenishba' or just generally lax L'teiavon, One should be mekarev him.

  • If you would, translate a good bit of the yeshivish, here. Esp. in the 2nd paragraph. – DanF Jun 18 '18 at 15:22
  • how can you know if he is intentionally wicked? – ray Jun 18 '18 at 18:20

I suggest this is related (vaguely) to the Sugiah of Yevamos 21a "אתי עשה ודחי ללא תעשה" - the positive Mitzvahs override the negative ones vs. the verse "סור מרע ועשה טוב".

The Gemmorah presents the approach that the benefits of positive Mitzvahs are more valuable that the possible (spiritual) loss from transgressing negative ones. For example, that approach (basically a traditional Chassidic approach following BaaSh"T heritage) is clearly adopted by Chabad (*it is ), living among gentiles in far and weird places, "sabotaging" their religious lives and lives of their wives and kids.

So for them Pursuing Shalom is definitely more valuable.

On the other hand, the standard "Litvakes" or non-Chassidic approach is derived from that verse "סור מרע ועשה טוב", interpreting the precedence of סור מרע to עשה טוב as preference of not losing to earning a Mitzvah, in your case "keeping distance from a bad person".

  • Could you elaborate on the sources of these approaches? Who among the Litvaks and chasidim has adopted these approaches? – b a Jun 20 '18 at 15:35
  • @ba How far do you want to go? Tanoyim? Before? Eisov and Yankev? Before? Those two approaches are hinted in the first Rashi on Bereishis - "בשביל תורה שנראת ראשית... בשביל ישראל שנראו ראשית." Those are the roots of the two approaches. – Al Berko Jun 20 '18 at 19:58
  • I meant the sources for Litvaks holding one way and chasidim holding another way. Would you be able to name people who hold by each opinion? – b a Jun 20 '18 at 22:23
  • A nice example going back to the Sages - Avoda Zarah 17ab, R' CHanina and R' Yonatan choosing between two ways - near idolatry and near a brothel offering each one different benefits - one said better keep off from possible sinning, the other said let's face the harder challenge and get rewarded. As I said, Chabad is a great example of "face the challenge and get rewarded", most Litvakes Rabbis forbid going out completely, worrying for not to sin. – Al Berko Jun 21 '18 at 20:21
  • Have you been to the Israeli Litvakes communities? I think you think of an American style which is very lenient, the Israeli community is far more strict and far less compromising. I worked for Arachim (the biggest Israeli Kiruv organization) and they have hard times recruiting Avrechim for talking to the secular audience. Most Rabbis forbid all interaction with the "wicked". – Al Berko Jun 21 '18 at 20:25

Maybe we can understand this using the gemara in Sotah 42a (https://www.sefaria.org/Sotah.42a?lang=bi)

א"ר ירמיה בר אבא ארבע כיתות אין מקבלות פני שכינה כת ליצים וכת חניפים וכת שקרים וכת מספרי לשון הרע

Rabbi Yirmeya bar Abba says: Four classes of people will not greet the Divine Presence: The class of cynics, and the class of flatterers, and the class of liars, and the class of slanderers.

If the rasha falls into one of these categories then distance yourself from him, because you can't be better than Hashem. Otherwise draw him close.

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