Being Alone by Hillel Glazer


After describing how Yaakov has instructed his servants to greet Eisav with presents and has settled his family, the Torah says "",ויותר יעקב לבדו "and Yaakov remained alone" (שית ל"ב:כ"האבר). The Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah (פרשה ע"ז סימן א') explains that just as Hashem is alone, meaning that there is no other god, so Yaakov was alone (לבדו). We can learn from here that there are actually positive aspects to being alone and that being alone can be a way of emulating Hashem. It was exactly this state of being alone that led Yaakov to his battle with the angel, as described later in the Posuk (שם), a battle which ends up favorably for Yaakov.

In view of this, Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz says that we can now understand the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (פרק ד' משנה א') which gives the definitions of four key attributes. The Mishnah (שם) says, "Who is a wise person? One who learns from everyone. Who is a strong person? One who can conquer his inner-most desires. Who is a wealthy person? One who is happy with his lot. Who is an honorable person? One who honors others."

The Mishnah (שם) thus reveals a wonderful concept. A person can obtain the most important things in life by being independent of anyone else and working with himself alone. Who, therefore, is a wise man? Not one who is smarter compared to others but one who learns from others. Who is a strong person? Not someone who is stronger than others but someone who is stronger than himself and can conquer his inner-most desires. Who is a wealthy person? Not someone who has a lot of money compared to others, but someone who is happy with what he himself has. Who is an honorable person? Not someone who is honored by others but someone who himself honors others regardless of how they treat him. All of these four important personality traits may be achieved by carefully concentrating on oneself alone, and not comparing himself to others. We can now more deeply understand the significance of Yaakov being alone, as Hashem Himself is alone.


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