Minute #669: Not Alone

Great Torah personalities of the past spent time in solitude and achieved new heights of spiritual growth. Chassidic masters often walked for hours in the forest to disengage from society and connect with our Creator. One might think that avoiding others is the solution to avoid failure in climbing the spiritual ladder.

Harav Chaim Shmulevitz said that being alone is dangerous to the soul (Sichot Mussar, 5733, p. 64). The Rav explains that when Yaakov Avinu was traveling with his family towards a confrontation with his brother Esav he was safe from attack. As soon as he went back for some property and was left alone, the “man” came to wrestle with him all night long.

The dangers of solitude prompted our Sages to say, “When you confront this despicable one (i.e., the evil inclination), drag him to the study hall” (Kiddushin 30b). Learning on one’s own might help, but the Rabbis suggest to drag your adversary to the beit midrash where there are many others there to assist your resistance. In fact, in another tractate the Talmud suggests to spend one’s time in the beit midrash exclusively (Masechet Beitzah 24b).

Life is so hectic that “quiet time” is at a premium. Many people today seek ways to isolate themselves from the noise and distraction of society. “I need my space” is the mantra of the overworked and the overcommitted. What’s a person to do?

The solution is balance. One should not disconnect completely from society. “Social networking,” however, is only safe and spiritually healthy when your “contacts” are like-minded individuals who are seeking ways to make Hashem happy with their performance.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Just as humility is the center of a person’s character development, so, too, is it the cornerstone of his avodas Hashem. The Chovos Halevavos explains that just as a master needs a servant, a servant needs a master. One cannot exist without the other. Any sense of arrogance is denial of my dependence upon Hashem. It revokes my status of a servant of my Master. (Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, The Shmuz on the Parsha, p. 329)