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Dovid Vigler

Being Alone is Not The Same as Being Lonely

Image source: https://youtu.be/nUPDkLiCzeQ

The curious story of the first anti-Semite in history

As the tensions between the US and Israel reached new heights this week, Jews have been feeling more isolated than ever before. In his jarring speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the world that:

“If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. But we know we are not alone because countless decent people around the world support our just cause. And I say to you, we will defeat our genocidal enemies. Never again is now!”

Jews around the world are feeling alone, a feeling which can quickly evolve into fear. We’d like to encourage you to use the opportunity of this moment to your advantage. When we reflect on the historical precedent of our nation’s loneliness in the Torah, we can use the power of this emotion to transform the outcome of our anxieties and conquer our enemies.

The first person that was “alone” in the Torah was our forefather Jacob (Genesis 32:25). Immediately after his isolation, he succeeded in neutralizing the first anti-Semite—his brother Esau who had been preparing to murder him for thirty-six years. Our sages reveal that what Jacob did while he was alone, was the reason for his success over Esau.

In the enigmatic narrative, the Torah tells us that Jacob was “alone and struggled with a stranger all night long”. If he was with the stranger then clearly he wasn’t alone!?

Our sages explain that Jacob was indeed alone. The man he was struggling with was none other than himself, as he faced his own identity crisis! All night long, Jacob was grappling with his inability to be true to himself as it dawned upon him that he had been trying to imitate Esau since his earliest youth —at birth, he was holding his heel (Genesis 25:26); Jacob purchased the birthright from Esau (Genesis 25:33); Jacob dressed in Esau’s clothes (Genesis 27:15), stole Esau’s blessings (Genesis 27:35), identified himself as Esau (Genesis 27:19) and even married Leah who was destined for Esau (Genesis 29:17 Rashi). He was given his very name “Jacob” since he was clutching onto Esau’s heel! (Genesis 27:36)” (Jacob is rooted in “ekev”—the Hebrew for heel.)

As he stood alone, Jacob struggled to identify as Jacob the Jew, instead of living in the shadow of his older brother Esau. Indeed, Jacob finally realized that he hadn’t been true to himself all along. And that’s why the Torah tells us that he emerged from this encounter “limping” (Genesis 32:26)—he wasn’t stable in his own shoes. With clarity and fortitude, Jacob decides then and there to no longer try to be Esau—from this point on he would be Jacob.

The secret that the Torah is teaching us is that no one likes it when someone else invades their space. When Jacob tries to imitate Esau, Esau feels threatened and responds with hate. The moment the Jew has the courage to embrace his Jewish identity fearlessly, the enmity of the anti-Semite melts away, and the curse is transformed into a kiss! (Genesis 33:4)

Admittedly, this is a profoundly spiritual and deeply personal approach to facing anti-Semitism. Bear in mind that it’s not in place of necessary military and diplomatic efforts to protect ourselves, but in addition to them. As American Jews, we can’t really don military gear or run for political office necessarily. But we can—and indeed we must—make a spiritual difference. Hear this message in the words of an IDF Commander in the Engineering Brigade who came to visit us at Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens.

Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap was a rabbi in Jerusalem in the early twentieth century. He was revered and admired by the Jews of Jerusalem as a Kabbalist and a great spiritual leader. Many of my family members were his students and congregants. Over one hundred years ago, he wrote these words in his book “Mei Marom (Chapter 52):

“In the days leading into the Final Redemption through Moshiach, the animosity of the nations of the world against the Jews will rise exponentially. When the Jews will feel entirely isolated, with no one else to turn to, the Jews will have no choice but to turn to their own Jewish identity, and then the redemption will take place.”

Jews are never, ever afraid. Wherever we are we know that we are never truly alone because “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me (Psalms 23).” Instead of fear from those who seem to have rejected us, let us focus our attention inwards by deepening our conviction and commitment to our Jewish identity and our Heavenly Father. As we do so, we will be walking in the very same lonely footsteps of our forefather Jacob, whose deep introspection quickly led to his overcoming his enemies.

Embrace being alone. Being alone has a power that very few people can handle. Thomas Edison said that “the best thinking is done in solitude; the worst has been done in turmoil.” When I’m alone, I think.

Perhaps it was precisely this inner strength that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was referencing when facing similar circumstances that Israel is today, as he emphatically declared:

“Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history.

Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country.

We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”

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CHABAD OF PALM BEACH GARDENS CONTINUES TO PROVIDE LIFE-SAVING DRONES TO IDF SOLDIERS.

HELP US BE THE EYES AND EARS OF THE BRAVE WARRIORS OF THE IDF.
SAVING LIVES BY IDENTIFYING DANGER.

DONATE IDF DRONES TO CHABAD ISRAEL EMERGENCY FUND AT JEWISHGARDENS.COM/ISRAEL
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Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
JewishGardens.com | 561.624.2223

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About the Author
Raised in South Africa and educated in some of the finest Yeshivas in Israel, England, New York, and Australia, Rabbi Dovid Vigler strives to share the beauty and depth of Judaism in a clear, conversational, and down-to-earth manner. Whether in private counseling, relatable sermons, weekly email broadcasts, or in his popular Torah classes on social media, he reaches out to every Jew with unconditional love, patience, and compassion. His inspirational talks and uplifting messages can be found on YouTube.com/JewishGardens and Facebook.com/JewishGardens
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