Despite the primarily legalistic nature of the Talmud, one finds many social insights based on the words of the Bible. For instance:

Rabbi  Simeon ben Pazi expounded [the foregoing verse as follows]: What does Scripture mean by (Psalms 1:1), “Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful”? If he did not walk [that way] at all, how could he stand there? And if he did not stand there, he obviously did not sit [among them], and as he did not sit among them, he could not have scorned! The wording is to teach you that if one walks [toward the wicked] he will subsequently stand with them, and if he stands, he will end up sitting with them, and if he does sit, he will also come to scorn, and if he does scorn the scriptural verse (Proverbs 9:12) will be applicable to him, “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scorn, you alone shall bear it [responsibility]” (Talmud Avodah Zarah 18b).

It is no secret that the people with whom a person chooses to associate have a significant impact on that person’s life. Whether one wants to admit it or not, our peers often influence the clothes we wear, the way we speak and even our philosophical views on the world. Generally this is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, just the nature of human society. Sometimes, however, people fall into the “wrong crowd” and, without intending for it to happen, become someone they did not intend to be.

This passage is a cautionary tale reminding the reader to consider carefully with whom you choose associate, and that ultimately, each person is responsible for their own behavior.

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