Immediately following the morning blessings, there is a short prayer that asks God for protection from “arrogant people and arrogance itself, from a bad person, a bad companion, a bad neigbor, a bad mishap, a destructive adversary, a harsh trial and a harsh opponent…”

In this short prayer, we learn the importance of guarding our social environment. And while this supplication requests that God not lead us into situations in which we might be tempted to err, we are, after all, free to choose our circle of friends and acquaintances. It is therefore extremely important to think carefully about the people with whom we associate.

It may seem obvious to say that we should choose friends who share our values. Yet people often find themselves in difficult situations when a social acquaintance acts in a less than admirable manner. What does one do about a cousin who shoplifts or a co-worker who gossips?

Ideally, we should separate from that person. Such was the example set by Abraham when he chose to separate from his nephew Lot after discovering that Lot allowed his herds to graze on other people’s property. (Genesis 13)

Unfortunately, separating yourself from such situations is not always feasible. Sometimes the best we can do is to try to avoid them (e.g. not going shopping with a would-be shoplifter or staying away from gossipers). Since walking away from such situations can take a great deal of emotional strength and fortitude, and is sometimes impossible, we ask God to help us avoid them in the first place.

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