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The Influence of the Environment on a Person

Thus, all [of man’s] merit and spirit depends on the choice of the environment.

Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom”


Only in the matter of the choice of environment is man’s reign over himself measured, and for this he should receive either reward or punishment.

Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom”


Obtaining the importance and exaltedness depends entirely on the environment.

Baal HaSulam, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”


Only in that is one rebuked or praised—in his choice of environment. But once he has chosen the environment, he is at its hands as clay in the hands of the potter.

Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom”


There is freedom for the will to initially choose such an environment, such books, and such guides that impart to him good concepts. If one does not do that, but is willing to enter any environment that appears to him and read any book that falls into his hands, he is bound to fall into a bad environment or waste his time on worthless books, which are abundant and easier to come by. In consequence, he will be forced into foul concepts that make him sin and condemn. He will certainly be punished, not because of his evil thoughts or deeds, in which he has no choice, but because he did not choose to be in a good environment, for in that there is definitely a choice.

Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom”


He who strives to continually choose a better environment is worthy of praise and reward. But here, too, it is not because of his good thoughts and deeds, which come to him without his choice, but because of his effort to acquire a good environment, which brings him these good thoughts and deeds. It is as Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachya said, “Make for yourself a Rav, and buy for yourself a friend.”

Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom”


Now you can understand the words of Rabbi Yosi Ben Kisma (Avot 6, 9), who replied to a person who offered him to live in his town, and he would give him thousands of gold coins for it: “Even if you give me all the gold and silver and jewels in the world, I will live only in a place of Torah.” These words seem too sublime for our simple mind to grasp, for how could he relinquish thousands of gold coins for such a small thing as living in a place where there are no disciples of Torah, while he himself was a great sage who needed to learn from no one? Indeed, a mystery.

Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom”


Although everyone has “his own source” (initial essence) the forces are revealed openly only through the environment one is in. This is similar to the wheat sown in the ground, whose forces become apparent only through its environment, which is the soil, the rain, and the light of the sun.

Thus, Rabbi Yosi Ben Kisma correctly assumed that if he were to leave the good environment he had chosen and fall into a harmful environment, in a city where there is no Torah, not only would his former concepts be compromised, but all the other forces hidden in his source, which he had not yet revealed in action, would remain concealed. This is because they would not be subject to the right environment that would be able to activate them.

And as we have clarified above, only in the matter of the choice of environment is man’s reign over himself measured, and for this he should receive either reward or punishment.

Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom”


The measure of the greatness does not depend on the individual, but on the environment. For example, even if one is filled with virtues but the environment does not appreciate one as such, one will always be low-spirited and will not be able to take pride in his virtues, although he has no doubt that they are true. And conversely, a person with no merit at all, whom the environment respects as though he is virtuous, that person will be filled with pride, since the measure of importance and greatness is given entirely to the environment.

Baal HaSulam, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”


A person has qualities that his parents bequeathed to their children, and he has qualities that he acquired from the society, which is a new possession. And this comes to him only through bonding with the society and the envy that he feels toward the friends when he sees that they have better qualities than his own. It motivates him to acquire their good qualities, which he doesn’t have and of which he is jealous.

Thus, through the society, he gains new qualities that he adopts by seeing that they are at a higher degree than his, and he is envious of them. This is the reason why now he can be greater than when he didn’t have a society, since he acquires new powers through the society.

Rabash, Rabash—the Social Writings,

“Concerning Above Reason”


If one does not have any desire and craving for spirituality, if he is among people who have a desire for spirituality, if he likes these people, he, too, will take their strength to prevail, and their desires and aspirations, although by his own quality, he does not have these desires and cravings and the power to overcome. But according to the grace and the importance he ascribes to these people, he will receive new powers.

Baal HaSulam, Shamati[I Heard], Article no. 99,

“He Did Not Say Wicked or Righteous”


One cannot raise oneself above one’s circle. Hence, one must suck from one’s environment. And one has no other counsel, except through much work and Torah. Therefore, if one chooses for oneself a good environment, one saves time and efforts, since one is drawn according to one’s environment.

Baal HaSulam, Shamati[I Heard], Article no. 225,

“Raising Oneself”


Our sages said, “Make for yourself a rav and buy yourself a friend.” This means that one can make a new environment for oneself. This environment will help him obtain the greatness of his rav through love of friends who appreciate the rav. Through the friends’ discussing the greatness of the rav, each of them receives the sensation of his greatness. Thus, bestowal upon one’s rav will become reception and sufficient motivation to an extent that will bring one to engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lishma.

They said about that, "The Torah is acquired by forty-eight virtues, by serving of sages and by meticulousness with friends." This is so because besides serving the rav, one needs the meticulousness of friends, as well, the friends’ influence, so they will affect him the obtainment of his rav’s greatness. This is so because obtaining the greatness depends entirely on the environment, and an individual cannot do a thing about it whatsoever.

Baal HaSulam, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”


And while one sees how one’s environment slights His work and does not properly appreciate His greatness, one cannot overcome the environment. Thus, one cannot obtain His greatness, and slights during one’s work, as do they.

And since one does not have the basis for obtaining His greatness, he will obviously not be able to work to bestow contentment upon his Maker and not for himself. This is so because one would have no motivation to exert, and "if you did not labor and found, do not believe." And one’s only choice is to either work for oneself or to not work at all, since for him, bestowing contentment upon one’s Maker will not be tantamount to reception.

Now you can understand the verse, "In the multitude of people is the king’s glory," since the measure of the greatness comes from the environment under two conditions:

  1. The extent of the appreciation of the environment.

  2. The size of the environment. Thus, "In the multitude of people is the king’s glory."

Baal HaSulam, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”

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