Story-ideas-1011172

Parshot Festivals

Cure loneliness by showing up and caring

  • RabbiSchell
When G-d created Paradise, each new creation was accompanied by the declaration, “Ki tov”, (It is good). Only human loneliness was deemed unworthy of G-d’s support – lo tov he-i'yot le-vado (It is not good for man to be alone.)
by Rabbi Adrian M Schell, Congregation Bet David, Morningside | Oct 11, 2018

G-d realised that there is no paradise for those who are isolated, without partnership, companionship, and community. And so, Adam and Eve were united to share life’s joys and tragedies.

Rabbi Jack Stern once wrote, “The way we usually approach the subject of loneliness is the way we used to approach death and dying before it was almost forced into the public arena – mostly by avoiding it, because we have all seen lonely people sitting next to other lonely people on lonely park benches, and they are the people we would least like to be. So, we shy away from the subject altogether, because in our idealised, packaged version of healthy adjustment, there is no room for loneliness, not even a little bit.”

Loneliness is far from a rare and curious phenomenon. The creation story of the Torah reminds us that loneliness, unfortunately, seems to be a central and inevitable fact of human existence. How ironic it is that the more crowded the world gets, the lonelier we feel. How ironic it is that the more technologically advanced we become, the more sophisticated, fast, and far-reaching our tools of communication, transportation, and transaction become, the more we experience disconnection, alienation, and separation.

This is not solitude. Solitude is coffee and a newspaper, a bath, and a glass of wine. Solitude is a walk in the morning breeze, a beach chair at sunset. Solitude is being alone with a meandering thought, a silent prayer, a daydream, a remembered melody. Solitude is a stolen hour writing in a diary, practicing a skill, listening to music. Solitude is being alone by choice. Lonely is being alone not by choice.

Our tradition teaches us to care for the widow, the stranger, and the orphan. But, if we are honest with ourselves, do we act to the best of our abilities? Have we failed to show up for those in our families, our communities, who bear the burden of a loneliness they never chose, even if we could do something about it? Or worse, did we contribute to another’s loneliness?

Healing power resides in simply showing up, in putting our arms around someone else, in dedicating an hour to performing a mitzvah for someone else. Anyone who spends an hour making a shiva call, visiting the sick, reaching out to someone who’s family is overseas, volunteering at an old-aged home, or reading to children, knows this. When we reach out to another, the hand of G-d reaches out, and takes away a little of the loneliness.

May 5779 bring us closer together.

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