What does one do if he lives in an area where there is no contact with his rebbi?
First of all, there may be somebody in that area who could become a rebbi of his.
Secondly, what business does he have living in such an area? It’s important to live in a good neighborhood. When you live in a certain neighborhood it becomes part of your personality. You can’t help it. אדם נמשך בדעותיו ובמידותיו אחר רעיו וחביריו – you’re attracted, you’re drawn after your environment. If the environment is a pop culture environment, and there are movies all around and people with TVs all around, you can’t escape the influence. Although you can try to some extent but you can’t escape it.
And therefore a person if he’s wise, he should listen to what the chachamim say: Shachen tov! (Avos 2:9). A good neighbor is very important! And a good neighborhood is very important. It’s extremely important to find a place where you’ll be influenced by the people around you.
By the way, I want to make a remark. Nowadays in addition to the influence of the environment there’s a very great question of yichus, of the kashrus of yichus. And children who grow up in a certain neighborhood where people come from doubtful origins, sometimes they make shidduchim with frum boys and girls, frum shidduchim, but their parents don’t come from good yichus. I know from experience. There’s mamzeirus mixed in from the generations of seventy years ago. It’s a terrible thing today in America. We don’t have a registry and that’s why it’s important to know where these people came from; and you can’t find out.
So if you’re marrying somebody in Williamsburg; he came over from Europe and settled in Williamsburg, I think that’s the very best yichus of all. But once they move into another neighborhood then they mix with other people and then there are questions. And so it’s very valuable to live in a good solid neighborhood. Shachen tov is a very important element in a person’s shleimus, in his perfection in this world.
TAPE # E-129 (January 1999)