Inspiration – influence – can come from various sources - various types of people. Sometimes that influence is beneficial and leaves a positive mark upon a person. However, there are times when that influence is detrimental and leaves a negative mark upon a person.
Based upon the verses in this week’s Parsha, our Rabbis tell us that Yishmael - who was 14 years older than Yitzchak - was teaching Yitzchak the finer points of immorality, idolatry and murder. Whether the Rabbis mean it literally or are speaking in a manner to catch one’s ear, they are informing us that Yishmael’s lifestyle was not one for Yitzchak to emulate and – as big brothers sometimes do - Yishmael was trying to influence Yitzchak to follow his path in life. This way “Food will come easy; money will come easy; women will come easy” and your life will be a bowl of cherries – or hummus – whatever they liked to eat.
So, Avraham was faced with a tough decision. Here is his oldest son in whom he had pinned high hopes – “If only Yishmael will live in the ways of G-d”, and this son was now off on a wayward path and perhaps wreaking havoc and destruction upon his other son – the person G-d had said will be the one to inherit Avraham’s mantle as forefather of the Jewish people. What should he do? So, Avraham threw Yishmael out of his house. He saw no other way to save Yitzchak. Yishmael’s influence was that bad.
Family, teachers and friends hold influential positions in our lives. With whom we choose to associate – with whom are children choose to associate – which teachers we and our children value and emulate - makes all the difference. If we or they make a poor decision, our lives and their lives can be ruined. On the other hand, if one carefully selects their heroes, that person will most likely develop into somebody of whom people are proud.
Influence of family, teachers and friends often determine the road upon which a person decides to travel. If the influence is negative, it is a road filled with potholes. The person who travels such a road will likely come out with damage. That road must be repaired to prevent injury and damage. Therefore, Yishmael had to be thrown out of the house of Avraham and Sarah. On the other hand, if the influence is positive, it is like a freshly paved road. The person who travels such a road will be much happier and be able to accomplish so much more.