Jacob's solitude

Jacob was neither the first nor the last of his people who would need to learn the power of solitude.

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski ,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski

In a world with exponential population growth one of the most difficult experiences of sadness, is the sense of aloneness in the midst of a bustling crowd.

G-d said, "It is not good that man is alone ( Levado); I shall make him a helpmate opposite him." (Genesis 2:18).

To understand the concept of “Ezer Kinegdo - helpmate opposite him” Rashi explains” If he is worthy, she will be a helpmate. If he is not worthy, she will be against him, to fight him.(Tractate Yevanot. 63a)

Does the word Levado, then, express an experience that is negative and threatening or does that word Levado also express opportunity?

When Yaacov (Jacob) returns to the land with his growing family, his fears of Esav (Esau) return to perplex him, He sends messengers ahead to determine the intentions of his brother .We thereupon read the following:

"The angels returned to Yaacov, saying, 'We came to your brother, to Esau, and he is also coming toward you, and four hundred men are with him.' Yaacov became very frightened and was distressed; so he divided the people who were with him and the flocks and the cattle and the camels into two camps.(Genesis 32: 7-8)

After he does all that he can to prepare himself for the fateful meeting, we read;

And he arose during that night, and he took his two wives and his two maidservants and his eleven children, and he crossed the ford of the Yabbok. And he took them and brought them across the stream, and he took across what was his. And Yaacov was left alone (Vayivater Yaacov Levado), and a man (ISH) wrestled with him until the break of dawn.".(Genesis 32:23-25)

Immediately following reading in the verse that “Yaacov was left alone(Levado)", we see that ” he wrestles with a “man ( ISH) ” until the break of dawn. We learn subsequently that this was not just any man, but rather a spiritual being, the angel of death or perhaps the angel of the nation of Esav.

Yet the verse just described Yaacov as being alone at the same time as it describes his struggle with this entity called an Ish.

Our sages (the Bnei Yissaschar) describe how we are all destined to confront a point of complete aloneness in our spiritual and mortal journeys. In such times we can find ourselves thrown into situations wherein we are simply left with only our delicate balance of strengths and weaknesses.

On the one hand in these ALONE times we struggle within ourselves with the insecurities and fears that keep us chained and blocked from growing into our purpose. On the other hand, it is from those struggles that we find the empowerment to move forward.

We are all Yaacov.

Yaacov came into this encounter filled with all those concerns. He expresses these in his prayer to Hashem ;

I am unworthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant,(ibid 32:11)

What then was at the psychological core of Yaacov's fears that he deeply sensed when he was left alone with himself?(Genesis 32:25)

One can almost sense that the painful words of his father, Isaac, seared a deep wound in Yaacov's heart. Those were the words Isaac said when giving Yaacov the blessings that ostensibly were for Esav; "The voice is the voice of Yaacov, but the hands are the hands of Esau." (Genesis 27:22).

Yaacov was aware that what he did regarding the blessings was clearly within the desire of G-d. Yet Yaacov may have been deeply troubled by the gnawing question of how much of Esav’s character had seeped into his soul. Had "the hands of Esav" overtaken the spiritual "voice of Yaacov"?

It is then that he is thrust into this place of aloneness .It is only in that solitude that he would have the opportunity to struggle with those fears to determine if indeed he was still on the path that G-d had decreed for him.

Yaacov was neither the first nor the last of his people who would need to learn the power of solitude.

Abraham was called a Hebrew Ivri because when the whole world was on one side of the river, he had the courage to cross over ( La-Avor) and stand alone on the other side.

Bilaam against his will was blessing the people and not cursing them when he declared that this people will be a "A nation that will dwell in solitude( Levadad) and not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers 23:9).

When the people of Israel lose their spiritual way, we read how the prophet Hoshea describes G-d telling them Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly unto her" (Hoshea 2:16).

It is in that wilderness and solitude that "the tender call of Hashem" can be heard .It is in their aloneness that they will find the strength to continue on their journey into destiny.

So is Bilaam's declaration A nation that will dwell in solitude (Levadad) and not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers 23:9) - a curse or a blessing?

It is all a matter of their choice of action.

They can view the verse as a curse and do all that they can to escape their unique role.

On the other hand they can understand it as an opportunity to in fact hear that "the tender call of Hashem"

The waves of hatred and boycott we see around us suddenly cease being a threat and transform into an opportunity.

It is in that wilderness of aloneness that we will find our voice and in fact will be joined by many others in the world who have suddenly found themselves also set aside and silenced.

When that happens then we will see the fulfilment of the verse;

The haughty eyes of man will be humbled, and the height of men shall be bowed down, and Hashem alone shall be exalted on that day (venisgav Hashem livado)". (Isaiah 2:11)

Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved vekol HaCholim

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem, www,