In the very first Pasuk of Sefer Shemot, the Torah says: “These are the names of the sons of Yisrael that came to Egypt: with Yaakov, each man and his family came.” The Chafetz Chayim asks an obvious question: why does the Pasuk have to repeat that the sons of Yaakov came if it just told us that they came, and is about to tell us their names? The Chafetz Chayim answers that originally the Shevatim did not want to go to Egypt. They knew that Egypt was one of the most immoral societies in the world, and they were afraid that it would have an adverse influence on their families. However, once they saw that Yaakov himself was coming (“Eit Yaakov”), they were no longer afraid. As long as Yaakov was alive, no one would be badly influenced by the surrounding Egyptian culture.
This shows the great power of Tzaddikim to save others from sinning. If one is in close contact with a great Tzaddik, he will most likely be influenced positively by that Tzaddik. This idea is also mentioned in Pirkei Avot 1:6, where Yehoshua ben Perachiah advises every person to find a Rav for himself. It is apparent from this that associating with Tzaddikim helps a person grow spiritually and can prevent spiritual decline.
This is very important for us today in America. A portion of American society is quite immoral in many ways that is somewhat similar to Egypt of old. It is important to find righteous people who will help us become better Ovdei Hashem. Rabbi Yisroel Poleyeff used to remark that hearing secondhand what Rav Soloveitchik zt”l had said was just not the same as hearing the words from the mouth of the Rav himself. The effect of the words of Tzaddikim is great indeed. May we all be Zocheh Be’ezrat Hashem to find that Tzaddik who will help us in our Avodat Hashem.