[Avodah] The Danger of Being Too Isolated

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Wed Oct 28 09:20:55 PDT 2020

The following is from the new translation of RSRH's commentary on the Chumash.
Dare one suggest that Chareidi and Chassidic educators keep this in mind when dealing with their students?  YL

Bereishis 20:1  Avraham journeyed forth from there to the south country and settled between Kadesh and Shur, and he sojourned in Gerar.

Avraham settled (i.e., took up permanent residence) between Kadesh
and Shur, but he also sojourned (i.e., took up temporary residence) in
Gerar. What were the reasons for these two contrasting actions?

We have seen that, initially, Avraham sought to isolate himself and
his household from the atmosphere and society of the cities. For this
reason he first settled in the desolate south, and only gradually established
ties with the cities, finally settling among his allies, Aner, Eshkol,
and Mamre, who related to him with respect and esteem.

Now we see him, in his waning years, returning to the south. He
settles between Kadesh and Shur, in an isolated, uninhabited area near
the wilderness of Shur, which is known as a complete wasteland. At the
same time, however, he seeks contact with city life and occasionally
stays in Gerar, the capital of the Philistine kings.

Unless we are totally mistaken, we would venture to say that what
prompted Avraham and Sarah to change their place of residence was
the expectation of the imminent birth of their son. A Yitzchak should
be educated in isolation, far removed from any negative influence.

On the other hand, complete isolation, which denies the student all
contact with people who think differently and whose aims and way of
life differ from his own, is a dangerous educational mistake. A young
person who has never seen a way of life other than that of his parents,
never had an opportunity to compare his parents? lifestyle with that of
others, and never learned to appreciate the moral contrast between the
two, will never learn to value, respect and hold fast to the ways his
parents have taught him. He will surely fall victim to outside influences
at his first encounter with them, just as one who fears the fresh air and
closets himself in his room can be sure of catching cold as soon as he
goes outdoors.

Avraham?s son, the future bearer of Avraham?s heritage, should, from
time to time, enter the world that is alien to the spirit of Avraham.
There he can evaluate opposing ideas and strengthen himself to keep
to the ways of Avraham in a world that is opposed to them. For this
purpose Avraham chooses the capital of a Philistine prince.

In the land of the Philistines the degeneracy had apparently not spread
to the extent that it had reached in Canaan; hence the Philistines were not
subject to the destruction decreed upon their Emorite neighbors.
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