a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - August 6, 2000
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Hello and welcome
to another edition of Toward a Meaningful Life. Im
speaking to you from the West Coast, from Los Angeles, California,
and bring you greetings from this part of the world.
With the miracle of radio and airwaves, its
possible to speak from anywhere in the world, but today Im
speaking from the studio of singer/songwriter, poet, Leonard
Cohen, who has been gracious enough to host me. At some point,
whether today or some other time, I hope he will share some
words with us on the radio show. Weve become friends through
correspondence and now in person, and hes been gracious
enough to allow me to use his studio to bring you another edition
of the show.
Tonight well be talking about the topic
of loneliness. The reason I chose this topic is that besides
the fact that this is such a prevalent issueone of those
invisible enemies in our livesits also the traditional
nine-day mourning period on the Jewish calendar, the saddest
part of the calendar when we grieve and mourn for the destruction
of the Holy Temple that took place close to 2,000 years ago
The nine days began actually on the
first day of the Hebrew month of Av, and it continues until
this upcoming Thursday when it will conclude on Tisha BAv,
meaning the ninth of Av. Tisha BAv is a fast day, a day
of mourning for the destruction of the Temple.
One of the lamentations in the Book of Lamentations
that we traditionally say on the evening of Tisha BAv
is Aichah Yoshva Bodad, which in Hebrew means
How lonely it is to be sitting alone. Look how bad
it is. I lament the fact that I sit alone.
In other words, the destruction of the Temple
created a cosmic loneliness, a personal loneliness. So I felt
it appropriate at this time to dedicate a show to loneliness
on all levels.
Some questions that Id like to pose at the
outset are: Are we alone? Are we all alone? Are some of us lonelier
than others? Is it an inherent fact of life that we are destined
to be alone?
You do find people who are happy, who socialize
well, who are extroverts and communicate well. And then there
are those of us who feel alone and suffer from loneliness.
But is this truly the fact? Isnt everyone
truly alone, and some just know how to distract themselves better?
And is loneliness indeed a bad situation altogether? Is it inherently
bad for the human condition to be alone?
Id like to talk about that and hear your
thoughts on the matter as well. In a Kabbalistic context, the
ninth of Av, being the number nine, implies ten minus one. Ten
and not nine is a cryptic statement made in one of the
Kabbalistic works called the Sefer Yetzirah, the Book
of Formation. So the number nine in a sense is a lonely one
because its missing the one. That lonely number one. And
sitting here in Los Angeles, in a way I feel alone myself, even
though Im speaking to you on the radio.
When you pause to think, the truth is that no
matter how many people love you and how close you are with friends
and associates, at the end of the day we walk home alone, and
theres a part of us thats always alone.
I also want to extend my condolences to the family
and friends of a close friend of mine, a tragic loss
that we had just over Shabbat. Michael Liebert was one of my
first students in the classes I give on the Upper West Side.
Nineteen years ago, when I began the class, he was the first
or second student who came. He was a man truly loved by myself
and by so many people.
In a way, when someone does pass on, it reminds
us of the loneliness of existence, the loneliness of life and
death. I feel hes been part of the growth of the Meaningful
Life Center that brings you this radio show. So I definitely
extend my best wishes to his family and friends, for Michael
Liebert, Moshe, who passed away just yesterday and today was
brought to burial.
So when we talk about loneliness, theres
the issue of our own inherent loneliness. Of course on a very
technical level, when we say someones lonely, that can
be simply due to the fact that that person doesnt have
friends. We dont have people to party with or hang around
with, and when you usually hear people saying that they are
lonely, its usually about that.
Then of course theres another deeper level
of loneliness where we dont have a companion, a soul mate,
a spouse. Many single people want to get married and find someone
whom they can live their entire lives with. Theres a loneliness
So as much as we do socialize and have fun, we
want to have that intimate partner. And there, loneliness takes
on a different meaning. Its not that I dont have
anyone to socialize with, I have no one to share my deepest
feelings with. I have no one to come home to at the end of the
day. Thats another level of loneliness.
In a strange way, in the fast-paced society that
we live in, a society that continuously makes demands on us,
it really cultivates even more loneliness than slower paced
times, because the contrast is so profound.
Here youre rushing all day, whether youre
rushing to the job, or rushing to satisfy a client or a boss,
or youre in the money market, and then when you have to
stop and pause and take some respite, you suddenly realize,
Im really alone in this world. With all this rushing,
Im not necessarily getting anywhere.
And that contrast tends to make the loneliness
even more profound. We live in a society where theres
a mass mentality. You see it in stadiums across the countrysports
stadiums, arenas, music halls, rock concertswhere thousands
and thousands of people come together, and they cheer and they
party together. In a sense theres a kind of camaraderie.
However, you can be sitting in a stadium, in an
arena of 50,000 people and cheering along, and be as lonely
as ever. As soon as the party is over, as soon as the game,
the show is over, theres a profound loneliness that sets
in as we walk home.
As we walk out of that event we suddenly realize,
this whole group of people that I was just cheering with, and
applauding with, and listening with, and being moved by the
performance with, they really are strangers and I am alone in
this world. Yet again the contrast.
One of the things that always struck me as perhaps
the loneliest experience of all is the performers loneliness.
When youre on stage and youre performing, whether
its music or art or some other artistic expression you
feel an incredible surge and bond with hundreds or thousands
of people. But when the show is over and everyone leaves, you
have to go backstage and start packing your bags.
Walking out that back door must be, on an existential
level, one of the most profoundly lonely experiences possible.
That may explain why so many performers have to in some way
supplement that high and it creates a very profound sense
of I am all alone.
So the illusion of crowds, of mass transportation,
mass production, industrialization, in many ways contributes
to the sense of being alone.
Loneliness is an issue that can be put in a mystical
context. Even though its mystical, it has deep psychological
For me, personally, the issue is not so much whether
we can distract ourselves and find ways to avoid the issue of
being alone, which many of us do, but the issue is really an
existential one. Existential loneliness essentially means that
we are alone in this world. That were self-contained human
No matter how much you feel for another person,
theres still a boundary: Im me and youre you.
And that, when you think about it, has a certain element of
pain because its something that you cant get around.
You can party all the time and you can be a happy
person, but you can still feel alone. When the Temple was destroyed
and the Jews were sitting shiva, their saying Aicha
yoshva bodad, How lonely it is to sit alone,
was the expression of this existential loneliness. With the
Temple being destroyed, being torn away from us, we were left
with a situation where you suddenly see yourself in a glaring
way and you see that Im not connected.
And thats what Im leading to, that
loneliness is not just between you and other people. Loneliness
can be between you and yourself. You can be very happy being
with others and still feel lonely because youre disconnected
If you think about it, you find that that is really
the anatomy, the core, of what being alone is all about. In
a way, the destruction of the Temple brings up a question which
Im going to pose before we take a break, which is, why
would the destruction of a building be such a powerful memory,
something that we continuously commemorate? Answering that question
will teach us something about what it means to be alone and
how to overcome that.
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So in response to my question about the building
and the destruction of the Temple, Id like to say this:
The Temple wasnt just another piece of real estate. It
was actually a window that connected heaven and earth.
Fundamentally, when the Temple was destroyed,
a cataclysmic change occurred in the universe where we became
less in touch with our Divine connection, our calling, our purpose,
and our souls.
And that is why we sit in mourning today, thousands
of years later. Not because of something that happened so long
ago, but because its effects and its re-creation takes place
every moment in our lives.
Every time you see a person able to hurt another
human being, injustices, Holocausts, on a personal or collective
level, its a result of our feeling that we are not one
and the same.
If your left arm did something wrong, is it conceivable
that your right arm would punish it? Obviously not because its
one organism. And in one organism, every part feels that its
part of a larger whole.
In the human race, we do not necessarily feel
that we are connected in that way. That is why human beings
can hurt one another. Parents can hurt their children, we can
hurt our loved ones, or strangers. There is an inherent disconnectedness
that exists in our lives which is the root of greed, selfishness,
and ultimately the potential ability for us to harm one another.
All this is an extension of, an expression and
a consequence of, the destruction of the Templebecause
as I said the Temple was not just a building, it was a building
that represented, as the Bible puts it, Vasu
Li mikdash, (build Me a Temple) vshochanti
bsocham (and I [G-d] will rest among you).
As long as G-d rests among the people, there is
a sense of connectedness. That doesnt mean were
the same. It just means that we are like different musical notes
in one large composition. Just as in a healthy body different
organs, different limbs, different systems can all complement
each other, and function in a coordinated fashion, the same
is true on the larger organism level, the human race. The destruction
of the Temple represented the breakdown of that.
Indeed, the Talmud says that the Temple was destroyed
because of the irrational hatred that people had for one another.
Whats the connection? Because the Temple represented unity.
If you are disconnected from yourself, you will
be disconnected from people around you. You see people who have
a certain inner majesty, who glow, who have a certain inner
confidence, and they get along with everyone. Even with those
with whom they disagree.
But if youre personally split apart, compartmentalized
or fragmented, and you agonize over your own split, that usually
feeds into the inability to function and communicate with others
So the loneliness were talking about, if
you really think about it, comes down to who you see yourself
as. Are you alone in the world? And we are alone if were
not in touch with our souls.
Let me give you a practical example. Youre
hard at work and lets say youre successful. You
make a good salary, people admire your work, and you feel youre
You come home and your soul craves for something
more. Success is just not enough. You may need a companion.
You may need some spiritual inspiration. You may need something
As long as you dont have it, all that success
feeds one part of you but another part of you remains quite
hungry. And that means youre alone with yourself. You
are inherently lonely because your own being feels lonely. One
part is lonely and does not feel connected to another part.
That lies at the root of all loneliness. But one
can feel at peace with himself when all parts of you
are being fed; when not only your material side, your success
is being nurtured, but it is also taking place on a personal
level, in your personal life, your psychological life, or in
your spiritual life. Thats when the loneliness turns into
a type of union, where you have different voices inside of you
that all reconnect with each other.
I submit that that lies at the heart of the issue.
Are you at peace with your own soul, you own mission?
Now that doesnt mean that thats enough.
The question that comes up is, what role does communion, friendship
and companionship with other human beings play? Can you just
be comfortable with yourself and be self-contained?
Im just suggesting that step number one
is, as Hillel said, Im ein ani li, mi li?
If Im not for myself, who will be for me?
And that includes loneliness. If you cannot keep yourself company,
no one else can truly keep you company. No one can replace the
companionship and harmony that your soul and your
body need to create between each other in this lifetime. And
we shouldnt feel depressed if that doesnt happen
That is the battle of life. Indeed, that is the
battle that were posed with. G-d says, I give you
a body and a soul. I give you a material and a spiritual life.
Its up to you to create companionship between the two.
Brotherhood. Sisterhood. They should be at peace with each other.
Thats step number one.
Okay, were talking about being alone in
a world of many people. There are 6 billion people, thank G-d,
on this planet, and yet you can feel as alone as ever, because
its not a numbers game, its about what you feel
Okay, lets go to the phones. Daniel, youre
on the air.
Caller: The question is, is there a connection
between mental illness and loneliness, that one causes the other,
and if so, is it mental illness that causes loneliness or is
it perhaps the other way around?
Jacobson: Thats a great question
(and may G-d protect us from any such situation). But I do think
that they are connected. First, I think we have to begin with
a small disclaimer. Theres mental illness that is of a
clinical nature, that though it causes deep loneliness, you
cannot just heal it with some type of quick fix. Sometimes its
a chemical imbalance, or forces in our lives that just take
over and we cant say its just loneliness.
I would categorize that as being more profound
than loneliness; to the point of despair, the bottomless pit
where the demons take over and you feel theres no return.
That being said, I do think theres a deep connection between
mental illness and loneliness, which Ill explain with
As I mentioned before, were in the Nine
Days, but today is also the fifth of Av on the Hebrew calendar,
the yahrzeit of the Holy Arizal. One of the doctrines
that he taught (and youll see the connection in a moment)
is that theres a concept called tzimtzum, that
when G-d created the universe, in order to create an independent
universe where we are self-contained and we feel that we are
it. He needed to create this type of cosmic
black hole where G-ds presence was shrouded, which allowed
us to emerge.
In a strange way, that was the first split
personality experience. I cant call it mental illness,
but in a way its the root of the disalignment between
our conscious and unconscious minds.
When a person does suffer from some type of mental
imbalance or mental illness, it has to be seen as a consequence
of the disalignment of the universe in general.
In other words, if we all lived basking in the
unifying light of G-ds existence, and there was a seamless
connection between all of life, there would be no possibility
for any type of disconnection or any type of inconsistency.
So in that context, loneliness and mental illness
do have a connection because as I mentioned, the fact that we
are self-contained individuals and we do not feel that our partner
or our friend or our parent or brother or sister are one with
us, tends to enhance and exaggerate the darkness when one begins
to feel despair.
Often when I speak to people who are suffering
from that type of depression, its something you just cant
put into words. You try to tell them, Youre not
alone. Youre not alone, but their profound sense
of being alone is so deep that there are no words that can reach
I think that that is a result of, in a sense,
G-d hiding the underlying inherent threads of unity that connect
us all. So Im not telling you what the solution is, Im
just acknowledging that the connection between loneliness and
mental illness is a very deep oneand in terms of
solutions, there are no quick solutions to situations that are
particularly of that illness level.
However, I do think that all of us, by understanding
and coming to appreciate that we are not alone in this world;
that we are inherently connected and ultimately connected with
our souls and with G-d has the positive impact that perhaps
can help a person back from the brink of despair or hopelessness.
Caller: Okay, thank you very much.
Jacobson: Were here talking about
loneliness, and as I said, you can be in a room with a thousand
people and be utterly alone, or you can be in a room all by
yourself and not feel that youre alone. Its all
about being at peace with yourself.
Loneliness tends to make us sense that we are
caving in when we feel that were like very small dots
and we begin to feel that insignificance. Thats what Id
like to talk about nextthe connection between loneliness
and feeling significant, feeling that youre needed, feeling
that you contribute something.
(Announcement break about Rabbi Simon Jacobsons
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Jacobson: Okay, we go to David on the line.
Caller: Hi Rabbi. Thank you for taking
my call. I wanted to ask, you mentioned one type of loneliness
as the type where the person hasnt found a soulmate and
hasnt gotten married. I wanted to ask if indeed a person
goes through life and doesnt find his or her soulmate,
does Judaism regard that as a kind of failing in some way? How
does Judaism view that?
Jacobson: Thank you David. Im sure
thats a question on many peoples minds. My reply
is that its not a black and white issue, because though
on one hand, Torah, Judaism feels that every one of us has a
soulmate waiting for us somewhere and thats how weve
been created, still, we cant judge people in their journeys.
Some of us may find it very difficult to find
our soulmate, either as a result of our own childhood experiences
or a result of circumstances. I dont like to judge something
after the fact, meaning, if one has gone through ones
life and is unable to find that soulmate, tragically, though
theyve searched, its between that person and G-d
and I would rather not speculate, because I think each is a
case by case situation.
Regardless, even if the person could have done
more, I dont think its our role to judge that person.
Each of us has to look at ourselves and look at the unique challenges
of each of our lives.
However, if someone is still in the middle of
the process, in other words, theyre of age or they havent
passed away yet (Im not saying that we have to wait until
the last moment), sometimes were doing the wrong things
in searching for that soulmate. Our intentions may be in place,
but often were doing the wrong thing, meaning, we may
be undermining it, creating unrealistic expectations, or not
allowing ourselves to just open up and let our defensives down.
We may be self-destructive. I think its wise and healthy
for each of us, whoever is looking for a soulmate, to have a
trusted friend that you can review and discuss with whether
you are doing something self-destructive. Are there unhealthy
patterns in your search for a soulmate?
Im a firm believer that when were
ready, G-d sends the right person. I know people who met their
potential soulmates and they just werent ready. Five years
later, theyre happily married to that same person. At
the first point, they themselves were not at peace with their
own soul, which goes back to my earlier theme that if youre
lonely with yourself, you will not find a true companion outside
of yourself, because nobody can take away your loneliness. Thats
an illusion; an illusion that is fed by this mass mentality
environment and society we live in, where you feel that, Oh,
if everybodys doing it that makes me feel that Im
part of something. Thats an illusion. You are part
of something if you, and all the parts inside of you, feel united
under that one umbrella, that one mission.
If not, millions of people can be doing whatever
it is and you can feel all alone.
So its critical that a person come to peace
with themselves in that way. I think finding the companion within
your own self, within your own soul is the first step to finding
the companion outside of yourself.
Okay, David, thank you for your call. Ellen, youre
on the air.
Caller: I think that one must learn how
to deal with rejection. I find that rejection in my life has
led to terrible feelings of loneliness.
Jacobson: Rejection from?
Caller: All sorts of situations.
Jacobson: From family? Friends?
Jacobson: Well, I would agree that rejection
in childhood is definitely a big feeder into loneliness because
it feeds into the feeling that no one is with you, that no one
is in your corner, and you dont have validation. Is that
what youre referring to?
Caller: Yes, and a feeling of very low
self-worth. And that makes you feel very lonely.
Jacobson: Thats a good segue into
what I was going to discuss before: the importance of feeling
important or significant. The theme that you often hear from
me on this show is that you matter and that you
are meaningful. Not just in a subjective, circumstantial way
to the people you love, or people close to you, or people who
applaud you, but that you are meaningful and significant to
Youre meaningful and significant on a cosmic
level. You have a contribution to make that is unique and indispensable.
Im not going to repeat the story that Ive so often
shared, and many of you who have received our newsletter have
read the most moving letter from that St. Louis woman, but essentially,
the underlying theme from those who havent heard it before,
is that Birth is G-d saying that you matter. If
you value yourself based on looks, youth, economic status, even
family loving you, those are all temporary, subjective and arbitrary
factors, and if your value is based on any one of them, when
you take it away, then your value goes down.
Your true inherent value is because youre
here on earth and youre here for a mission. And when you
have that sense of significance, that you matter, that is the
single greatest force that battles true, existential loneliness.
Because when you wake up in the morning, remember,
even if you have a loved one lying right near you, you still
can be profoundly alone. The excitement to jump out of bed knowing
that you have a mission to do, something that youre needed
for today, is ultimately the solution to any type of sense of
Without the feeling that you matter and that youre
significant, all the activities that distract you cannot really
supply you with that, of being part of a bigger picture, part
of contributing something that no one else can do except you.
That is ultimately the best solution to lonelinesssignificance.
Now what healthy parents do is not necessarily
give you a sense of importance. What they do do is not
undermine your sense of importance. They dont invalidate
you. That is the key.
Unfortunately in an abusive and dysfunctional
home as Ellen was just sharing with us or alluding to, when
you feel rejected or you feel invalidated, whats happening
is the undermining of your spirit. When a child is continuously
silenced, continuously put down, dismissed, or even worse, continuously
abandoned in the most subtle of ways, the child grows to feel
that he doesnt exist, that hes not significant.
Parents come home from worktheyre
so busy they dont even notice their children. Or they
notice them and they entertain them in a very superficial way.
Do you know what children need more than anything
else? Its not gifts or places to travel to. Its
not even time. Its validation. The acknowledgment that
when they see the look in the eyes of a parent, they get the
message that theyre important. That theyre valuable.
Can you imagine? Its something that doesnt
cost any money. You cant buy it in a store. No gift can
replace it. But what is more valuable to the human condition
and to what makes us productive, healthy, wholesome, not lonely
but complete human beings, is that look in the eye from your
mother or father, from people around you, that says you matter.
You matter to me. Youre valuable. Youre indispensable.
They dont give it to you and they cant
take it away from you. It is G-d that gives it to us. And when
a person has that significance, that is the single most powerful
force that helps you travel through life.
The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic
movement, his father died at a very young age. We all know that
when you lose a parent at a young age (G-d forbid), it has a
traumatic effect on us. Many people become very insecure because
of the lack of a parent, the nurturing that the parent would
However, the father of the Baal Shem Tov left
him with a legacy, and said something to him that although it
could not replace a fatherobviously a father can never
be replacedit dramatically did much to give the Baal Shem
Tov the power and the confidence and the security to do what
he needed to do in his life. We can learn from that.
What did he tell him? On his death bed he told
his little Yisroelik, his little son Yisroel, the Baal Shem
Tov, Remember that youre never alone. Youre
with G-d. And you must fear nothing except G-d.
You can imagine the power of a child hearing that
as the last words from his father. The power that he instilled
in this little Yisroel, who turned into the Baal Shem Tov, was
that confidence that you can make a difference, and when youre
ready to do so, nothing can stand in your way. Dont wait
for a consensus, dont be disturbed or intimidated by other
peoples opinions. You need to tread your new path and
you do so.
And this Baal Shem Tov went ahead and founded
the Chassidic movement and taught the dimension of Judaism that
is so critical to our lives today, the soul of Judaism. Not
just the body but the soul.
And this all began with those words that his father
said to him. Youre not alone. You have a G-d. You
have a mission.
Its not just about a G-d in heaven. Its
about a mission on earth: that your soul was sent down on a
mission and you have a purpose. That is the single most powerful
force that helps us get beyond Aicha Yoshva Bodad.
Interestingly, the alter-ego to the bodad,
the loneliness that we say in Eichah, its antithesis,
is said in a blessing at the end of the book of Deuteronomy
in the Bible, where it says: This is a nation that sits
alone, bodad, its unique. So alone
can also mean unique.
There is unhealthy loneliness and theres
healthy loneliness. All of us need to have an element of uniqueness.
Remember, if you were not alone, then you would perhaps be a
clone. Would you rather feel like an extension of someone elses
personality or someone elses need or someones elses
You have a unique place. The key is to recognize
that your uniqueness is not loneliness. Your loneliness makes
you unique and therefore alone, but you are one with G-d in
that uniqueness. You are one with your soul, with your mission.
Okay, we have Martin on the air.
Caller: Hi Rabbi. Thank you very much for
taking my call. This is the second time Im listening to
your program and it was quite by accident. The first time I
listened to you a friend of mine told me about your program
and it was very interesting, and Im listening for the
second time today. Im quite impressed with what you say.
Youre quite a personality, and what youre saying
today is very tif, very deep.
I have a question for you and its affecting
I have a niece and she lives in a very frum
[religious] area in Brooklyn, and I think shes very lonely.
Part of the reason that shes lonely is that shes
trying to follow the pattern of the frum community, and
Im not being critical. Please dont misunderstand
me, Im not knocking frumkeit, Im a frum
person myself, but in this case, the mistakes that they
are making by teaching a child, for example, a girl, that you
can only marry such a person who sits and learns the entire
day, but if youre not cut out like a cookie cutter, you
dont fit that. And youre getting older and youre
watching all your friends get married, and you are refusing
to listen to a mother or an uncle who are trying to set you
up with a normal guy whos not learning an entire day,
only part of the day. Shes locked into this frum
ideology which is wonderful but doesnt fit everybody.
I think shes very lonely.
Jacobson: What do you suggest?
Caller: What I suggest she wont listen
to, G-d bless her, and I dont want to badger and bother
Jacobson: Well, tell me what you suggest.
Caller: I dont know. Im not
such a chocham (wise person)! If I was a chocham
I wouldnt be asking questions! I feel very bad because
time is marching on and the market is getting less and less.
Its not an easy matter.
Jacobson: Well, let me ask you a question,
Martin. You say youre frum, which means observant.
Are you lonely?
Caller: Everybody gets lonely once in a
Jacobson: No, but I mean do you have this
conflict of on one hand having to conform so to speak to the
standards of your brethren, of your community, and on the other
hand, your own individuality? The way youre describing
the situation with your niece, do you at all have that dilemma?
If you dont, why not?
Caller: How does that shed light into her
Jacobson: The reason Im asking is
that I think that by looking into our own selves, what it is
that you have that she doesnt, then perhaps we can share
something with her about how to integrate frumkeit with our
own unique individuality. Do you follow me?
Caller: Not really.
Jacobson: Look, if the issue is about being
pressured by a community, then any one of us who grows up in
an observant home should have that problem. Thats what
Im trying to say. And if we have that problem, how do
we resolve it?
Caller: Well I think its the person
sometimes more than the community. The community is a very influencing
factor, but its the personality of the person being timid
and following and being overwhelmed by what they see living
away by themselves and away from their parents, living in the
New York area and living by a family, and watching her roommate
Jacobson: Thats exactly what I was
getting at, because you hit the nail on the head. So if your
niece were living in a community that was not observant, she
would also be conforming perhaps to the intimidating forces
of her peers. So it may not be observance of frumkeit
thats the issue here. It may just be her personality in
light of the community around her.
Caller: How can a relative like myself
Jacobson: First of all, Im trying
to understand. Is what I just said accurate?
Caller: Yes, definitely.
Jacobson: So then the issue is not really
about Judaism per seand I think its important to
distinguishher personality is one where she (I wont
call her a follower) but she tends to conform or to buckle to
the pressures around her. Is that accurate? I dont know
her which is why I need your help here.
Caller: I think that shes like an
ostrich that puts its head in the sand to avoid the issue. She
wont answer you if you talk about something she doesnt
want to hear like that.
Jacobson: How old is she?
Caller: Shes 25-26.
Jacobson: And going to school, working?
Caller: Working. Learning at COPE, an institution,
and working at a nice office.
Jacobson: To answer this quickly, since
I dont know her, so its hard to speak through you,
she needs to have people like yourself who are supporting her,
who are not asking her to do anything, but just supporting who
she is and helping to cultivate her strengths.
Caller: Time marches on. We dont
Jacobson: I hear what youre saying,
but nevertheless, for her in any way to get anywhere, she needs
to have the support and strength that people will say were
behind you. I mean the way youre describing her it doesnt
sound like she has any mental illness or any problem like that,
thank G-d. So perhaps it requires people reinforcing a type
of strength. I dont know what her parents are like, and
I dont know what kind of influence you have, but
we dont have that much time to elaborate on the show because
time is running down, but I will say this to you. As an uncle,
you should encourage her to access whatever strengths she has,
and maybe look for a shidduch, a match, thats appropriate
to her that will not force her to be something shes not.
The fact that shes single perhaps is G-ds
way of saying that we have to find her the right type of person
who will appreciate her timidness and her personality, and at
the same time not crush her existence. Am I making any sense
Caller: Yes you are.
Jacobson: I think thats what we should
pursue. And Id be happy to pursue this further. Feel free
to email me at email@example.com
and if you email me, perhaps we can talk some more.
Caller: Thank you.
Jacobson: Thank you for the call and for
your kind words.
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Jacobson: Okay, we have Charles on the
Caller: How are you Rabbi. Nice to talk
to you. Someone spoke before about rejection and I wanted to
ask a little bit about rejection. We have somewhat of a history
in Jewish history with people being alone. Noah was alone, Yosef
was without his brothers company, Moshe came down from
Mount Sinai with the Torah and found the people worshipping
an idol. I think what I want to ask you is, on some level, is
the answer to loneliness social acceptance, the acceptance of
mediocrity? Could lowering ones standards in todays
society overcome loneliness for somebody? Is there any potential
logic to what Im asking you or is that part of the insanity
that you discussed earlier in the first phone call?
Jacobson: I think that conformity to mediocrity
and resigning ourselves so to speak to the status quo tends
to just create more loneliness, because conforming to those
around you, satisfying others, may create an illusion of acceptance
for the moment, but as I said earlier with the mob mentality,
its ultimately a disaster. When you stop to think about
yourself, you start saying, Im even lonelier because I
cant even stand up for myself.
So I agree with your statement, Charles. Thank
you for the call. We go to Ellen on the phone.
Caller: Thank you for taking my
call. I am a Holocaust survivor. We were seven sisters and brothers.
One of my brothers had seven children. The whole family was
130, with cousins, because my father was one of ten children.
And everything was wiped out and I was left alone. After the
war, I was like a shiksa during the war. They were killed
by the Polish and by the Germans.
I was only two years old when my mother passed
away and my mother saved my life the whole time. I had just
started school, and typhus was going around and I got typhus
too. A lot of children died growing up. My mother came to me
at day, not at night, and I didnt recognize my mother,
and she brought me a glass of sour milk and she said drink it
and the glass give to Yoel, my fathers brother. So I opened
my eyes and I said to my father (my father was sitting and saying
Tehillim) di mame hot gezogt ich zol dir geben
dos gloz (mother said I should bring you this glass).
Un er hot ongehoiben tzu vaynen (and he began
to cry). Di mame hot gebracht a refuah (mother
brought a cure). I didnt hear anything more from my mother.
Now its 1942, the 15th of July,
my mother came to me when I was asleep and she said, Today
is the first, di deitchen zeinen gekumen oif di Yidden, du
antloif (the Germans have come for the Jews. You escape).
I woke up my sister and I told them, Der mama hot mir
gezogt az ich zol antloifen, di deitchen zeinen gekumen oif
the Yidden, mit a truck (mother told
me to escape, the Germans are coming for the Jews with a truck).
Zogt zi mir: in a cholem gloibt men nischt, ober azoy vi
siz di mame, ken zein emes (she said to me:
we dont believe in a dream, but since its
mother it may be true). But she didnt say which
Anyway, this was in the country. We had animals.
I still got property there but the Polish dont give it
back to you. So I said to my youngest brother, Ill give
you a cow, and youll give me from Sofie. He
said, okay, whenever you come back Ill give it to you
But the you have to go to the city. I didnt
know because I didnt know which month this was. And
I am in the field with the cow and Offie comes to me
in the field and he said to me, dont be afraid. The Germans
came with their truck and I saw who goes in and your brother
with all seven children went in. Nobody got any extra luggage,
your brother got a prayer book and a shawl under his arm. Because
Im from a Yiddishe shtib (home).
Jacobson: I hear you and I really appreciate
your sharing this with us.
Caller: He came for the cow. So how could
I do it? Because people in the field
if I gave him the
cow the people would go tell the Germans.
Jacobson: I really appreciate your sharing
this with us.
Caller: Im alone. Im just 80.
Im legally blind.
Jacobson: Ellen, can you leave your number
with Steve the engineer so I can talk to you some more after
the show? Stay on the line and hell take your number,
okay? I really appreciate your call.
Yehoshua, youre on the air.
Caller: I was very impressed with your
active listening and I want you to know that. Its a beautiful
thing to witness. I wanted to mention on a more collective or
national level, regarding validation and the beauty of nurturance
within the Jewish people, since were coming to Tisha BAv,
and particularly we could be demoralized with the events that
transpired from Camp David, I think its extremely important
not to have enervation of the spirit, enervation of the will.
We need to affirm Jewish identity, and we need
to affirm Jewish symbols or concepts that are extremely important
to Yidden everywhere. Yerushalayim, Eretz Yisroel. The kedushah
[holiness] of Eretz Yisroel and the kedushah of the Jewish
Jacobson: I appreciate that validation.
Caller: So we could always use a little
Jacobson: You know, validation on a communal
level begins with validation on a personal level, so I appreciate
your words. And as Hillel said, If I am only for myself,
what am I? So first we have to begin with If I am
not for myself, who will be for me, and then comes the
second half, if I am only for myself, what am I?
That we need a community to support us.
Thank you for your call Yehoshua.
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Okay, we have a minute left. Its been interesting
talking about loneliness and hearing your calls. A final thought:
the Meaningful Life Center was established, in a way you can
say to deal with loneliness, because I believe, and our philosophy
is, that if you have meaning in your life youll be a little
less alone, because meaning becomes your partner.
You can have a biological life and not feel that
its meaningful, not feel that youre significant,
and then life is a very lonely journey. All alone. It doesnt
feel like youre making a difference. Why wake up in the
morning except for having a job and having to go to work or
other external responsibilities?
When you have meaning in your life, when you feel
that you matter, that youre part of a mission, that G-d
put you here to fulfill a mission, that becomes your partner,
your driving force, your ally, your resources, something you
can rely on even when youre in a bad mood, because the
mission continues. And thats what were dedicated
to here in our organization to help us all find that type of
meaning and to join forces, join hands, in a grassroots effort
of each of us helping each other find meaning. Because when
we have meaning in our life, it breeds meaning and focus breeds
focus. So on a concluding note Id like to suggest to all
of you that tomorrow morning you try the Modeh Ani exercise
that I often suggest, which is, as soon as you wake up, acknowledge
that your soul has been returned to you. Acknowledge that you
are significant. Thank G-d that you are significant and you
have a mission to fulfill in this world, a higher calling.
And in the immortal words of the Baal Shem Tovs
father, You are not alone. G-d is with you, and G-d accompanies
you through this journey.
Thank you. This is Simon Jacobson and Toward
a Meaningful Life. Please join us next Sunday from 6-7pm
at WEVD 1050AM.