When one is not only in front of, or behind, but even in the general proximity of, someone smoking, he can sense the fumes and may even feel them entering his body. To avoid the second-hand smoke, one must stay far away, cross the street, leave the room, etc. In many cases, the smoker does not even realize the effect or damage he is having on the life of another, who is forced to scurry away to avoid any negative impact on his health, or even to just avoid the stench.
A person who sins may be likened to the smoker, for although he himself may be accustomed to the smoke, his actions have a negative impact on all those around him. Just as the health conscious person scurries away from the smoking stench, or rushes his child away from it, so too, should we distance ourselves and our families from those who have a negative effect upon us.
It is no coincidence (for there are no coincidences!) that Dovid HaMelech starts all of Sefer Tehillim with the words 'Fortunate is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, and in the path of the sinners he does not stand and in the sitting place of the scoffers he does not dwell.'
Everyone has his or her own real-life situations in which the spiritual 'smoker' must be avoided:
[c]The consistently hot-tempered person
The co-worker whose language is considered coarse or even vile
The business acquaintance whose practices are questionable
Those who make light of Rabbonim and Torah leaders and what they say
The 'Kiddush Club' and 'talkers' table' members
Those who frequently speak devorim betalim in the Beis Medrash while others are trying to learn
Those who put material pursuits ahead of spiritual pursuits[/c]
Although the damage caused by these kind of smokers may not be as evident, one can view the damage in at least the same light as the effects of second-hand smoke. Chazal teach 'Oi l'Rasha V'Oi L'Scheino'(Rashi on Bamidbar 16:1, quoting Medrash Tanchuma) --Woe to the wicked one, and woe to his neighbors. Perhaps we can interpret this to mean that there is a greater woe to the neighbor than to the Rasha himself, for the Rasha is described with only an Oi, whereas those around him get a 'V'Oi'--an **and OI**, just as second-hand smoke may unfortunately be more dangerous to those nearby than the smoke to the smoker himself.
Let us all not be hurt by the presence of those who are around us. Instead, we should consistently endeavor to find ourselves in the presence of those we would be proud to be with if it were the moment of the Moshiach's arrival--for it very well may be that moment!
Printed with permission from Hakhel MIS