Rabbi Berel Wein

JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2000 /29 Shevat, 5760

Going it alone

By Rabbi Berel Wein

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT ISN'T GOOD to be alone, but sometimes circumstances require it. Faith in oneself and one's mission in life helps dispel the agony of loneliness.

The Torah cautioned human beings against attempting to be successful in life by going it alone.

"It is not good for human beings to be alone," we were advised while yet in the Garden of Eden.

Loneliness leads to poor judgment, bad decisions and a depressed state of mind. It also breeds a contempt for others and a cynical view of life. It is not a good thing.

For most of our history, the Jewish people have been forced to go it alone. "A nation that dwells alone," is the phrase used by Bilaam to describe us. Bilaam's prophecy certainly came true.


There are some positive aspects to going it alone. But those positive aspects came and come at great cost. The isolation of the Jewish people caused wrenching difficulties in the Exile. Many of those difficulties created the bitter divisions in the Jewish world that exist today.

Paradoxically, going it alone made the outside world more attractive than it otherwise would have been, especially during the past two centuries. For many other Jews, it also made the outside world forbidden territory, to be ignored as much as possible.

This dichotomy created the basic split between our secular and religious camps. The secular camp was convinced that only by becoming the same as everyone else would the Jewish people survive. Much of the religious Jewish world, in turn, was convinced that only by rejecting everything in the outside world and by glorifying the concept of going it alone would Jewish survival be guaranteed.

This split is certainly evident in Israeli society today.

Econophone For the first half-century of its existence, the state of Israel was forced to go it alone. Envied for its successes, hated for its shortcomings, our little state found no sense of belonging in the wider world.

Israel belongs to no regional group at the United Nations. It is the only nation that has no chance of ever achieving a seat on the Security Council, and it is always being boycotted or threatened in one way or another by other countries.

In my opinion, it is the longing for belonging, as much as the loathing of continued war, that fuels the current peace talks. Israel and the Jewish people are tired of being alone. Whether the Jewish people and state will ever feel that it can truly belong is of course, uncertain. Too much has happened over the past century for us to be overly sanguine about this prospect, particularly since many countries still maintain openly exclusionary policies against us.

One of the ironies about current Jewish life is the presence of a significant number of talented, dedicated, bright young Jews who find themselves without mates; who in their own way are going it alone.

The "singles scene" is often overlooked by established Jewish society. But it is something that should command our attention and concern. Without families, without children, without stable home environments, the Jewish future becomes very precarious, no matter how successfully we "make it" in the outside world.

There are many excellent groups that now promote the welfare of Jewish singles and attempt to be of aid to young Jews who are inexplicably alone.

It is not good to be alone, not good for Israel and not good for young Jews. Much more attention should be paid to this phenomenon of "singles" by the authorities and leaders of Jewish society.

Though there may be benefits for Israel, the community, to go it alone, there is nothing good about young single Jews remaining unattached.

Both for the nation and for the individual, going it alone requires tools of mind and heart to sustain oneself until the situation changes. Steadfast spirit, an optimistic attitude, a clear view of reality, lowered expectations and the acceptance of our imperfect world are all part of the survival kit.

Faith in oneself and one's mission in life helps dispel the agony of loneliness. A keen sense of a long road successfully traveled, both as a people and as a person, can be of great comfort.

The Psalmist wrote that he was never alone "for You are always with me."

As we go it alone in today's world, these words should stand by us, too.

JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein is one of Jewry's foremost historians and founder of the Destiny Foundation. He resides in Jerusalem. You may contact Rabbi Wein by by clicking here or calling 1-800-499-WEIN (9346).


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© 2000, Rabbi Berel Wein