Plentiful presence

As we approach Thanksgiving observance, an interesting finding about loneliness may be helpful. It turns out that loneliness has nothing to do with the number of people you have around you. Rather it relates to the amount fo meaning you share with others. Meaning-sharing reduces loneliness.

These days our need for intimacy seems to be going unmet. There’s a lot more attention being paid to needs for autonomy and mastery. Even the need for belonging is receiving the attention it deserves in our culture of self-help, self-care, and self-everything. But the need for intimacy is different. It provides the setting for emotions like love and and affection, for instincts like trust and a desire for loyal friendship.

In this week’s portion of Torah, Isaac’s intimacy makes an early, subtle appearance. His wife Rebecca is in emotional pain. For twenty years she has been unable to conceive. Isaac responds by praying on her behalf. But he does so uniquely in the Bible. He prays in her presence (l’nochach ishto) (Gen. 25:21). Isaac prays not merely for her but with her. Such spiritual intimacy is not only immediately rewarded, it clearly makes Isaac the most emotionally attentive husband among the patriarchs. Being fully present for someone we care for never feels transactional.

Faced with soaring coronavirus contagiousness, the importance of acting in ways that interrupt its infectiousness are as urgent as ever. A return to isolation can feel so dispiriting, so emotionally painful.

Try providing somebody you care for with a substance-rich conversation or message this weekend. You may just find that the companionship you offer them will nourish you both with feasts of plenty.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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