Why am I alone but not lonely

Alone, but not lonely

The community is part of the Jewish self-image. Already at the creation of man in the creation story it says (Genesis 2:18): “Gd said, it is not good for man to be alone, I want to create help for him, as it is for him suitable. "

The Hebrew expression "eser ke-negdo", which is unfortunately all too often incorrectly translated as "helper", does not mean a servant or subordinate, but a partner who is to be created for Adam. This is also shown by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's translation of the second half of the sentence: "How she is suited to him" - that is, a woman who is his equal and who is equal in all respects.

People need other people around them, with whom they can exchange ideas, who are real partners to them, who share the joys of life with them, but who also support them and whom they of course also help and who they take care of when it is necessary. We live and act in connection with our fellow human beings. Loneliness can have devastating consequences, as our sages already state in the Talmud.

In a story about Choni, the circle draftsman, it is said that he even died of loneliness (Taanit 23a). Raba then stated: "That is what people say: either society or death." Man is just a social being.

PRAYER This also applies to prayer. Of course there is personal prayer, and we find many examples of this in the Tanakh, but actually the Tfila should take place in community. For this we have the minyan of at least ten prayers, for this there are certain central parts of the prayer, or of course the Torah reading, which we are not allowed to pray without a minyan.

A digital contact can never replace social life. It remains a consolation.

The Talmudic sage Reisch Lakisch said: "Anyone who has a synagogue in a city and does not pray in it is called a 'bad neighbor'" (Brachot 8a). The Jewish religion and its rites and traditions as a whole, not just prayer, are a communal matter.

There can be no such thing as a Jewish Robinson Crusoe. But what should we do if we have to be isolated at home due to lockdown, quarantine or health reasons and can no longer go to the synagogue on Shabbat or public holidays?
First of all we have to try to keep the community alive. Single people in particular now need our help.

We can shop for them, get medication in the pharmacy, talk over the phone or a video conference program and also give them mental support.

In some cases, we can digitally bring our congregations to the people, for example through an online offer of prayers, shiurim, lectures, celebrations, virtual tours, and much more.
But of course short-term personal or digital contact can never replace a social life in normal times. It's more or less a consolation. But people who have to be alone shouldn't give up.

HILLEL In Pirkej Awot (1.14), Hillel says: "If I am not for myself, who is for me?" This well-known saying should encourage all lonely people during the Corona period. We should enjoy life to the fullest and fill it with meaning to ourselves every day, even when we are alone.

As Hillel said, it is primarily up to us to work and care for ourselves and to expand our own knowledge and potential as well as to improve our character on a daily basis. It is important that we fill our lives with things that are important to us.

In isolation, we shouldn't wait for other people to come up to us, but actively try to stay in touch with other people as much as possible. Wherever possible, we should go for a walk and meet other people in the open air - of course, in compliance with the rules and at an appropriate distance - and exchange ideas.

Loneliness can be devastating, as our sages already knew.

If we are not allowed or not able to meet other people in person, we should use all means of communication, be it by telephone or digitally. Unwanted isolation may also be an opportunity: We should take part in as many digital offers as possible that we enjoy, and read books that we have always wanted to read but didn't have the time to do, or we should learn Torah.

GOALS We should set ourselves goals and try to achieve them. Every moment of our life is precious, even the one we have to spend alone, and we should enjoy it to the full.

Even if it all sounds easier than it is, and the Corona period is very challenging: Even in this time of uncertainty, we should recognize what God gives us every day, how many options we have despite everything.

We don't have to wait for the light at the end of the tunnel. The light is here with us all the time. It may not be all good, but hopefully all is good enough. We should make the best of what is given to us, trusting in God and those around us.

The author is a member of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference Germany (ORD) and Director Central Europe of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (JCUC) in Jerusalem.