Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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A Lonely Connection

Everyone has times they feel lonely, some more than others. Why did Hashem create this feeling of loneliness?

 

It is through this feeling that one can genuinely connect to Hashem. The root of loneliness stems from the soul not feeling the presence of Hashem.[1] The only way to fill this emptiness is through Hashem. This is what is meant in the Midrash that links ויותר יעקב לבדו with ונשגב ה’ לבדו[2] as the alone of Yaakov is connected to the alone of Hashem.[3] Similarly, we are called הן עם לבדד[4] as we can do the same. Indeed, we are named after Yaakov—בני ישראל—and we therefore have this trait in our genes. When these two alones connect, that is authentic companionship.

 

When one feels lonely, he may call a friend to remove this feeling. This is one example of an external, superficial way of dealing with this feeling. Other examples are playing with different gadgets of technology[5] or with hanging out with friends.[6]

 

This state of loneliness is a gift that Hashem gives us as it is a reminder for us to connect with Him.[7] For this reason, it says לא מצאתי לגוף טוב אלא שתיקה,[8] I found nothing better for oneself than silence. In this way we can fulfill the words of the Mesillas Yesharim[9]לא נברא אלא להתענג על ה’…, we were created to revel in Hashem and delight in the glory of the Shechina which is the ultimate joy and greatest pleasure.

 

The Noam Elimelech and his brother R’ Zusha were once arrested and put in a prison cell. When morning arrived, the Noam Elimelech was found crying since he couldn’t recite Brachos as there was a makeshift toilet (bucket) there. R’ Zusha said to his brother that through this, we can connect to Hashem because the same Hashem who commanded us to daven is the same Hashem who commanded us not to daven in this situation. They then danced as the Noam Elimelech was consoled. Upon seeing this, the guard removed the bucket since this dancing infuriated him! They were now able to recite Brachos!

 

To inculcate the feeling that we are always with Hashem we need to constantly repeat the following: “am I alone or am I with you Hashem.” This applies whether we are saying מודה אני, are in shul and so on. If we are with other people, we can say “I am not only with these people but also with you Hashem.”[10] We need to verbalize this as it is not enough to just think it since with words we instill it in our heart as in האמנתי כי אדבר.[11]

 

The way one can check himself to evaluate if he has reached perfection in this area is to see if he ever feels lonely—even if this feeling is only for a second. A level such as this may take a lifetime to acquire. Let us daven to Hashem to reach these high levels.

 

[1] A Chassid of the Sefas Emes (1847-1905) was a Rav in a town where there were no other Chassidim. He asked the Sefas Emes if it would be wiser for him to move to another town where there were Chasidim since he felt so lonely where he was? The Sefas Emes told him that if you have a Gemara that you can learn, you need never feel lonely.

[2] Breishis Rabba 77:1. Breishis 32:25. Yeshaya 2:11.

[3] Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, volume 2, p. 99.

[4] Bamidbar 23:9.

[5] These gadgets have been called, “weapons of mass distraction.”

[6] Everyone has a need to be alone as well as a need for companionship. This originates from Adam as he was born alone and later had a wife and children (companionship). Being that man was born alone, the need to be alone is deeper.

[7] When Hashem gave the Torah the world was silent as the birds didn’t fly, the animals didn’t make any noise, the Malachim called שרפים didn’t say קדוש, קדוש, קדוש and so on (Shemos Rabba 29:9). There was no noise so that we could hear the voice within ourselves– the voice that longed for a spiritual connection, the voice that longed for Hashem’s Torah.

[8] Avos 1:17.

[9] Chapter 1.

[10] One should speak to Hashem in second person not in third person. For example, one shouldn’t say Hashem made this happen to me rather say “You, Hashem, did this.” In this way, we speak “with” Hashem, not “about” Him.

[11] Tehillim 116:10. Similarly, it says בפיך ובלבבך לעשתו (Devarim 30:14)—say it externally with your mouth and then eventually, if you do it enough times, it will penetrate your heart.

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