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The Elements of Jewish Living

Going It Alone (2005)

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Will he flourish in solitude or perish in loneliness?

Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.

After many years of sidestepping, Yaakov was on his way to a reunion with his brother Esav. Their relationship was always troubled, to say the least, and Yaakov had good reason to fear that Esav would react violently to the upcoming meeting. He prepared for the meeting meticulously and sent his family and servants ahead to do diplomatic advance work with his brother Esav.

“And Yaakov was left all alone…”

His family and servants were gone and even his guardian angels had left him. Yaakov was truly alone.

Very often we are surrounded by blessing in our life. Everywhere we look we see support, family and friendship; and then suddenly we are alone.

Rav Eliyahu Dessler wrote that G-d takes our hand and walks with us through life as if we were toddlers, making sure we don't fall. Every once in a while He lets go of our hand to see if we can walk on our own. Being alone is the test of our strengths and the true reflection of who we are and what we have accomplished. The strongest person in the world is he who can stand alone.

By nature we are social beings - in fact, our social nature is the mechanism through which our world functions. The danger, however, is that we can easily lose ourselves and our uniqueness as an individual in this social process. We derive our opinions and ideas, our morals and ethics, our belief system and even who we love largely by the “social pressures” of what society applauds and accepts. When we are alone we feel completely lost. Even when we are alone with our thoughts often we think about what others may say about those very personal thoughts.

Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, their truths, ideals and the principles that they stood for were constantly being tested by G-d. Abraham's kindness and faith was forever being challenged. Isaac's self sacrifice was pushed to the extreme. Yaakov stood for truth. During his entire life his truthfulness (emes) was challenged. Now came the time for the ultimate test; was Yaakov emes? Was he real? G-d let go of Yaakov's hand to see if he could be alone. Would he be able to draw only upon himself? Will he flourish in solitude or perish in loneliness?

Yaakov wrestled with Esav's angel all alone. After the struggle “Yaakov called the place P'niel for I have seen the Divine face to face, yet my life was spared.” (Breishis 32;31)

Yaakov made it through that solitary night and achieved the greatest heights a man can achieve; all by himself. When G-d figuratively lets go of our hand and we take a few steps alone successfully it is because we have absorbed into our own souls the lessons He has taught us.

As for us - it is important to remember that sometimes we’re all in this alone.

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