Loneliness: Fate or Destiny?

By Levi Liberow, Brooklyn, NY
Essays 2016

The Man of Faith is Lonely No More

MyLife Essay Contest 2016

As a growing adolescent in a Lubavitch family, I developed a curiosity to explore other paths and philosophies within Judaism. One of the most fascinating pieces of work that I came across was the late Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik’s – (“the Rav”) monumental essay The Lonely Man of Faith.

In this unique lengthy essay, first published in the summer 1965 issue of Tradition, Rabbi Soloveitchick brilliantly describes the strange situation that a religious Jew is placed in in modern, progressive times.

Rabbi Soloveitchik reads the first two chapters of Genesis as offering two images of Adam which are, in many ways, at odds with one another. The first Adam, or “majestic man,” employs his creative faculties in order to master his environment as mandated by G-d; the second image of Adam is a distinctly different “covenantal man” who surrenders himself to the will of G-d. He describes how the “man of faith” must integrate both of these ideas as he seeks to follow G-d’s will.

Rabbi Soloveitchik does not declare one image of Adam to be the right one, but rather identifies the struggle we must undergo as human beings in this existence, given by G-d, that is both spiritual and material, mystical and scientific, redemptive yet empowered[1].

The physiological, emotional and mental aspect of this dichotomy is a strong feeling of loneliness.

Loneliness is an adjective usually describing “sad feelings that come from being apart from other people,” but here loneliness describes a much deeper feeling than classical loneliness, a man of faith may be surrounded with many friends and colleagues who accept him and support him, but he still remains lonely.

It is a two-fold loneliness that one feels. The first is an existential one; – his loneliness in many ways is his destiny. It’s the loneliness one inevitably feels as he seeks an intangible creator which he can never fully grasp. This loneliness can only be healed by joining the covenant, which includes himself (“I), his fellow men of faith (“thou”) and G-d (“Him”). This is achieved either by Divine revelation or by prayer. But it never fully heals his loneliness, since he is encouraged by the “Him” to walk out of his safe zone where he finds some rest for his aching, yearning soul and again dress-up in the “majestic man” garb and go about accomplishing majestic workings in the world. This loneliness in fact is a the driving force of his constant, — to borrow a chassidic term – Ratzo v’Shov, yearn (to G-d) and return (to your mission in the world).

The second loneliness comes about when he attempts to introduce fellow “majestic men” of which their society he is an equal member, to the redemptive qualities of being a “man of faith.” He is misunderstood, and even scorned at times by that community, he is labeled old-fashioned and archaic and unrealistic before he even managed to bring his message across. He then discovers an ever more hurting, biting loneliness and he runs back to his cave.

I discovered this essay referenced to in The Rebbe’s Secret, a Lubavitch-sponsored biography of the Rebbe published by Yediot Acharonot in Israel.  In his book, Dr. Yechiel Harari presents his thesis that at a Farbrengen of the Rebbe at which Rabbi Soloveichik was present, on Yud Shvat 5740,  (January 1981), the Rebbe took to task to present his approach to this very important quandary that Rabbi Soloveitchik addresses in his The Lonely Man of Faith.

At that Farbrengen, the Rebbe quoted a saying from his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, in fact a saying which was coined here in the United States, an important fact in this discussion, since the faith-majesty dichotomy mainly was an issue for the Jew in the “new world.”

The saying is strikingly short: “A single man is many.” In simple words: one shouldn’t be intimidated to share his Divine message with the world since he is a single voice; he must know that he has the power of many and his acts can make a big difference.

This idea only addresses the last type of loneliness mentioned in The Lonely Man of Faith. In the following paper I would like to examine the Rebbes response to the first, deeper, far more painful loneliness.

Both the Rebbe and Rabbi Soloveichik, perhaps more than any other leaders in modern times have experienced this battle of the man of faith and the man of majesty. They both dealt with alone in the universities of Berlin and Paris and later fashioned their followers how to respond to it.

Rabbi Soloveichik may be accredited as one of the main ‘designers’ of the so-called modern-orthodox segment, while the Rebbe led Chabad-Chassidus from the “shtetl” into modern society and fashioned a formula in which a so-called ultra-orthodox Judaism can exist in a modern world.

While they both offered a solution to this problem, their solutions are greatly differ. Despite of the high esteem in which they held one another, the Rebbe and Rabbi Soloveichik came from different worlds and I think that they each created their solution to the “new-world’s” problem based on the “old world” from which they came from.


Four methods of confrontation

Before we offer the solution, we first must better define the problem, and come to the realization that this problem is of urgent importance especially now.

The problem at hand, besides for a metaphysical or theological dilemma, has significant bearings on the future of the Jewish people.

In any confrontation between two sides there are four possible outcomes:

  1. Side A chooses to surrender and lays its arms to side B, usually due to some sort of superiority side B had over it.
  2. Side A declines to fight side B and leaves the battle field, usually since it feels it has no chance to win, or since it doesn’t think this particular battle is worth the fight.
  3. Side A and B choose to fight and keep fighting without any end to the fight until they come to certain terms and cease fire, or even make peace.
  4. Side B surrenders and lays its arms to side A, usually due to some sort of superiority side A had over it[2].

With regard to our battle, the battle of the man of faith and the majestic man, these four outcomes have also played out, and are currently playing out as well[3]. We will set out to see what works best and how we can make the best of this battle, which we encounter on many levels, from our personal computers and smartphones, to our response to various social trends in the modern world that are clearly not according to the Torah.

But before we begin I would like to make distinction between the ages old war between Judaism and the world, ever since we became a nation at Sinai which intensified a thousand fold after we lost our independence at the destruction of the second temple, and the “new” war of the man of faith and majestic man which has become the challenge of the generation:

The emotional and mental burden a man of faith struggles with when he encounters “majestic man” embodied in modern, progressive society in a certain sense is far harder and exceedingly more painful.

Majestic man is neither a friend nor a foe. In many ways, the struggle against a foe is easier than the struggle against oneself. “Know your enemy” is the first rule of war. But majestic man isn’t an enemy. He too was created by G-d, and many of his glorious creations assist the man of faith in his quest for the Divine, and in modern society majestic man is inviting and even supportive of the man of faith. But this friendship is precisely what threatens the “man of faith” more than anything else.

Not because the majestic man is feigning friendship. No, he is a genuine friend. And just that is the problem: the meeting of “the man of majesty” of modern society and “the man of faith” in modern society breeds a faceoff between majesty and faith, and for the first time in history, the Jew is pitted against no one else but himself.

“There is no bloodier war than civil war” is a famous adage, but I venture to suggest, that more difficult than civil war is the war man has with himself. The man of majesty confronts the man of faith – but the confrontation isn’t in the street, in the university campus or in the written and electronic media, it takes place within the same body, within the same psyche.

After this introduction I will begin by giving the problem some historical context:

Today’s battle has its roots in the end of the middle ages and the onset of the European renaissance. The renaissance released thinking minds of their previous dogmatic way of thinking and gave lee way to ideas and movements such as humanism. These developments paved the way for the Jew, who until now was living in a segregated ghetto to become a member of the outside world as well. How this opportunity would be handled would be either detrimental or redeeming for the Jew.

The first serious encounter happened in Western Europe, primarily in Germany of the early 1700s. In what came to be know the Haskallah movement (Enlightenment).

In that case the Jew chose option A – to surrender. The man of faith succumbed his faith to majestic man; it was a three step process:

The first step was to keep his faith to himself, between the four walls of his home or house of worship. In no time the walls of his faith-based structure begin to cave in to majestic man’s values. The second generation proudly announced that faith is only viable if it will allow majesty (or as many mistakenly called it – reason) to lead. The third step is when the “faith” ingredient become an artifact in a museum, or practically a type of lip-service to a glorious past, with close to no commitment to preserving it.

This was precisely how the Reform movement developed: Moses Mendelson was an observant Jew all his life, but his philosophy on the relationship of Judaism and the world (faith and majesty) bred the movement which called to “reform” Judaism so it can be reconciled with the trends of the day, which have since changed many times and with them this warped version of Judaism.

While this was happening in Western Europe, the Jews in Eastern Europe were busy fighting one another as two camps: the new Chassidic movement was making leeway in communities in Poland and Ukraine while the rabbinic establishment in Lithuania was trying to hold back what they deemed the negative effects of Chassidus on traditional Jewish life.

But the bitter fight came to an abrupt stop when the winds of Reform and Haskallah came blowing east-bound and the competing factions realized that they must unite to hold away this existential threat, whose detrimental effect on the Jews of France and Germany was coming to light.

The chose option B, they declined to fight, and instead segregated themselves in their communities, – the chassidic courts of Poland and the Yeshivas of Lithuania, – keeping the struggle far-out.

This strategy worked well for some decades, even for a century, but as the world at large developed technologically and the Jewish world as well rapidly changed due to unexpected causes such as the holocaust which left most Jews in the free world as citizens with full religious and material rights, the confrontation became inevitable and only two options remained: to fight or to win.

Rabbi Soloveichik’s answer was option C, – to fight. In his Lonely Man of Faith he paints the picture of the battle field in vivid colors. He is honest and open that he doesn’t have a solution; in the opening of his epic thesis he quotes a verse from Job: “I will speak so I will be relieved.” “Knowing the illness” say the sages “is half the healing” and just realizing that the war is on, is vital for the war to be handled wisely and successfully. The battle of the man of faith and the majestic man is a battle which is inevitable and frankly, neither side could afford to win or lose. The man of faith cannot live in a world of faith alone, he lives not in the heaven and he greatly relies on the majestic man’s inventions and developments; majestic man cannot detach from the man of faith if he wishes to maintain the world he worked so hard to develop. But they are still at war, not a war that they want, but a war that they were put into by the creator of man, the same man who has faith and the same man who wishes majesty.

One of the consequences of this war is the inevitable loneliness of the man of faith, which will only be fully healed when Moshiach comes.

The Rebbe’s approach to the “outside” world, to majestic man, is a two staged strategy. Firstly, we must employ option D – to win!

Majestic man and the man of faith alike must realize that the man of faith will never surrender to him – this realization deals with the second phase of loneliness mentioned earlier. With that in mind he can move on to the next stage – to use that realization as a jumping board to a deeper realization and awareness, that the battle field they are situated in is only a subjective reality, only an interpretation of the human mind of the its standing. The true, objective, reality is that there are no two sides – “ein od milvado” – “there is nothing other than Him.” This addresses the first phase of the essential loneliness of a man of faith.

The Rebbe firmly believed that the “outside” is a subjective reality. It depends on your approach: if you feel intimidated inside, you will be scared, you will be lonely. If you feel proud and secure, you will just gain respect and support from the “outside”. In the Rebbe’s eyes this is principle that proves true in all circles of influence, beginning from a person in relation to himself, and ending in securing governmental support for religious causes.

In the Rebbe’s eyes, the world isn’t a jungle and a battel field, it is a garden and a potential abode for G-d’s essence alone.

This explains the seeming paradox in the Rebbe’s approach to Jews and to Judaism. When it came to Judaism, (the “who is a Jew” controversy, his approach to Zionism, are just a few examples) the Rebbe was very rigid, uncompromising and even “radical” in a sense.  When it came to Jews, there was no Jew who the Rebbe preached we should stay away from, every Jew is equally dear to G-d!

“Outside” – subjective or objective?

This principle is applicable to many, or even all challenges we faced in the last century and that we face today.

Here is one example which will highlight the difference between options C and D. we will present how the Rebbe and Rabbi Soloveichik approached the topic of secular studies:

They both — each in his distinctive fashion — abandoned the “old” segregation strategy as they discovered the “outside” world and realized that the outside will soon be something that they must confront, but the alternative they each offered was different.

Rabbi Soloveichik’s approach perhaps is the philosophy of the Torah U’Madah (“Torah and Science”) educational system, commonly known as Yeshiva-University. Rabbi Soloveichik believed that faith and majesty both are worthy of our pursuit, not a Yeshiva which also has some hours of secular and scientific studies included in its curriculum due to technical constraints brought upon us by the society we live in. and not a University which has a faculty of religious studies as another program. The translation of the faith-majesty conflict to practical terms is that one must master the sciences as an end to itself, not just a means to earn a livelihood. The pursuit of science and “majesty” is the reality of our world as was designed by its creator.

Unlike (almost) everyone else in religious-Jewish leadership today, the Rebbe’s ideal[4]  model of Jewish Education was to exclude any secular studies (even basic math and English) from Yeshivah curriculums. This, I believe, wasn’t due to fear of “opening” the students to “secular” influences. It would be more correct to say that it was in order not to create in the students mind exactly what Torah U’Madah wished to do: in the Rebbe’s eyes there is only one, true reality, which is G-d, the Torah and the Jewish people; studying math, or any other secular-natured subject, creates an image in the student’s mind that there is two realities, a “holy” Torah one (faith), and a scientific-secular (majesty) one. Mathematical and astronomical knowledge is needed to process and retain an understanding of certain concepts in Torah, and that study falls under the category of Torah study, but it isn’t worthy of becoming a “subject” to itself.

Instead of living in a conflict with the world, the Rebbe chooses to live in harmony with the world. He doesn’t try to make peace with secularism, since he believes that secularism, as an objective reality, doesn’t exist. In the Rebbe’s eyes, secularism is a subjective reaction to the reality of oneness in G-d’s world which every human being has the ability to break out of.

The roots of the two approaches

Interestingly, this interesting development in the Jewish world, namely the ceasing of the ability to remain segregated and the inevitability of tackling the challenge, “revived” in a sense the old dispute of Chassidism and their opponents of the early 1800s. Not the vicious aspect of it which has thankfully died out long ago, and even attempts to revive it have failed, but the ideological disagreement.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe is the seventh generation of Chabad Chassidism, which was a third generation outgrowth of the general Chassidic movement. Chabad Chassidus’s contribution, as a separate faction, to the general Chassidus was that it organized the basic tenants of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s Chassidus in an intelligible organized form, as a philosophy of life, and not just a folklore-movement.

Rabbi J.B. Soloveichik was a scion of a great dynasty of rabbis of Brisk, which began with the chief disciple of the Gaon of Vilna, R’ Chayim of Volozhin. This family represented in many ways the hardcore misnagdim – the opponents of Chassidus, which unsurprisingly lasted beyond the vicious battle of the early 1800s.

While more radical factions of the group pulled towards a “quick-fix” solution to eradicate the young movement with excommunications and libels to the government, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, realized that the movement is here to stay, it isn’t a threat on Judaism. He greatly disagreed with many of its teachings but he believed that rather than fighting a spiritual movement of with excommunications, its teachings philosophy must be confronted with an alternative philosophy. He chose to write a book – Nefesh Hachayim, and in it, he surprisingly admits to some claims of Chassidism which were points of contempt with the top leadership of Eastern European Jewry while in other chapters he offers harsh criticism on other basic fundamentals of Chassidism.

For the first time in 250 years, the two contestants in this old battle of ideas had a chance to “show” their real power. For the first 200 years Chassidus – and for this matter – also “mainstream” Judaism were not called to arms to protect themselves in the inner battle of faith and majesty. Only the gifts and freedom in our generation brought this battle to our door front. In a certain sense, Judaism is being put to the test and will reach its hour of glory if it succeeds in this new challenge.

In the following paragraphs, I wish to associate and link the Rebbe’s response to the challenge to basic themes in Tanya, and Rabbi Soloveichik’s response to that of his great-great-great grandfather’s work, Nefesh Hachayim.

As mentioned above, in his book, he bravely admits to some of the philosophical claims of Chassidus and sides not with his master, but with those who he so despised – the Chassidim. One such famous example is the Tzimtzum, the contraction process which was needed to allow a finite world to emerge from the infinite energy and light of G-d. One big argument of the chassidim and misnagdim was about the nature of this Tzimtzum: is it to be understood as a literal contraction, which means that the divine energy of G-d stays removed from the world, or as he Ba’al Shem Tov taught, it is only a borrowed term describing our perception of the light’s remoteness, since it isn’t possible for anything to exist without the divine energy constantly creating it. What the Tzimtzum means is that G-d’s divine light which is omnipresent by definition (otherwise the world couldn’t have formed into existence) appears to our eyes as removed, thus giving us the opportunity to arrive at that truth of G-d’s omnipresence on our own as a matter of choice, not a matter of default. In Nefesh Hahchyim, the author admits to the Tanya on this matter.

This concept gives the famous principle of Jewish faith, the oneness and unity of G-d, a whole new meaning: not only is there one G-d, who isn’t comprised of parts, but there is only one reality in the world, since everything is totally dependent on him for its mere existence, so truthfully there isn’t any other reality.

But there was another point which R’ Chayim strongly opposed, which was what should our perception of this truth be? According to the Tanya, the road to fulfilling and wholesome Divine service is paved upon contemplating this truth and applying it to practical life, thus knowingly rejecting the opposite, natural, notion. According to the Tanya, this reality was created for the purpose of that we deny it[5]!

According to R’ Chayim Volozhiner, one who rejects this natural notion on a practical level is denying existence itself. G-d has formed the world in such a manner, and just as we must believe that the Tzimtzum has no effect on his knowledge of us, we must accept that it has every effect on our knowledge of him. Denying that as a practical foundation for reaching spiritual fulfilment is going against the order of creation. We must strive to achieve spiritual awareness not by denying G-d’s remoteness from us, but by accepting that as his will and serving him and seeking his closeness while knowing that we will forever remain separate from him and never truly be close.

What could be wrong with imagining that, even if it isn’t true? According to him, that sort of imagination is disrespectful of G-d’s oneness and greatness, it is close to imagining G-d with a corporal image.

Here is not the place to cite the proofs and sources for this existential argument, but we will attempt to give this debate a practical touch, and thus connect the debate on the approach to the faith-glory conflict of modern times.

If we may sum up this argument in a sentence it would go so: the unity of G-d according to Chassidus is a matter of faith and practice, whilst according to R’ Chayim it is a matter of faith alone without a direct impact on practical life[6].  Without Chassidus, the unity of G-d is limited to realm of faith, which by definition is a term that relates to that which is removed from our practical life. According to Chassidus, faith is only removed from us in order for us to make it a realistic daily experience.

While in previous generations which suffered greatly physically, but enjoyed the ability to remain within the shell of the “ghetto” wall, in the environs of the shtetl, our generation has many things turned around. We now enjoy perfect freedom in matters of material, but spiritually we lack much of the inspiration and devotion our enactors had until not long ago.

In a generation as such the theological friction between Chassidus and the “old school” approach is greatly emphasized.

We may carefully assume that the belief of G-d’s unity according to Chassiduc thought has reached its peak, if we may, we can suggest that this generation is the big opportunity for Chassidus to express itself and its sobering power on us. To claim that the belief in the unity of G-d is a strong, and practical, factor in our life today seems risky, but if true it proves that “כל כלי יוצר עליך לא יוצלח” – nothing, be it the strongest force, can prevail over the strength of our spirit, even if our innermost truths are challenged. As an analogy, we may offer that Chassidus is like of a hammer designed to bash a meter thick wall that until now never had a chance to exhibit its power.

If we take the “old-school” approach however, the sad truth unfolds before our eyes – there has never been a harder time to be a Jew than now. All we can yearn for is for the walls which saved us this battle to go back up, the problem is that the walls of our heart have been shattered already – all we have left at our disposal is to fight, but our fight is –in many ways- a lost battle – how can you fight G-d’s destiny for the world to forever remain separate from Him?  אין עצה ואין תבונה לנגד ה’

The fight then takes form as a fight for the sake of survival, not for wining[7], in Chassidic thought however, even if the personal victory is limited, the temporary victories are acts of the G-dly soul which is an inseparable part of G-d[8], which is limitless and boundless and thus its good acts carry eternal meaning,[9] and all count towards ultimate victory.

The difference between these two approaches may be characterized thus: the classical “old-school” approach emphasizes G-d’s kingship, and subsequently separateness from mortals, while in Chassidic thought the “fatherly” aspect, the intimate connection is emphasized[10]; on our end, the “classic” approach sees us mainly as servants and subjects to which reward and punishment is essential as an incentive system to keep us on track, while Chassidic thought sees us as G-d’s beloved children –  a relationship based on mutual trust – we give Him and serve Him as a result of our essential, natural connection, and He provides us with our needs regardless of the “profit” we bring Him.

When the option of segregation was viable, as it was until the second half of the last century, the difference between these two approaches wasn’t so obvious, it only held true to the inner, personal spiritual experience of its follower, it didn’t have much of a practical difference. But we now live in different times.

Rabbi Soloveichck’s approach, at least as I understand it, was a modern version of R’ Chayim of Volohzhin’s philosophy: the “outside” is an objective reality which begins in you: you were created as an inside – the man of faith – and an outside – the man of majesty. Your search for majesty will always be hindered with your search for faith, and your search for faith will always be disturbed with a search for majesty. The world around you functions in the same manner, the forces seeking majesty and the forces seeking faith are in a close conflict which cannot be bridged. Neither side can afford to win, nor can it afford to lose. “My enemy is my best friend” only if he remains my enemy.

Why? This is the divine system of checks and balances to keep the world running in the way His divine wisdom intended: on the one hand, G-d wants the world to be inhabited and productive; people of faith alone would turn to asceticism. On the other hand if man would seek majesty alone the world would eventually be destroyed, for every man would reason “my majesty rises above all”! To keep that power in the balance even the man of reason must retort to faith as a support and foundation for his acts of majesty.

His response to Jewish secularism, if I may carefully propose, would be something like this: if Jews are being attracted to secular values and abandoning Jewish ones on the way, it is because presenting Jewish (“faith”) values as such which totally reject secular (“majesty”) values is wrong. Man was created by G-d in two layers. True Judaism sees secular achievement as a value, not a constraint.

But one must always remember that these two sets values are conflicting ones and not try to make peace between them, for that would hurt both. Thus “a lonely man of faith” is born.

The Rebbe’s response, however, to the ever growing secularism of the century, counter to most Chassidic leaders, was “uforatzto”! – spread forth, reach out and bring Jews back into the fold. This approach wasn’t only with regard to the situation in the Jewish world. The Rebbe’s response to the breakdown of values and morals in the world at large was a public campaign to return prayer to schools, and later, a “moment of silence” and an urge to all Jews who encounter non-Jews, to actively engage in disseminating the seven Noachide laws, as given by G-d to Moses at Sinai.

The same approach comes to dominate all the Rebbe’s correspondence with Jewish scientists, and Jews who are concerned due to scientific “contradictions” to Torah. The Rebbe’s clear direction is that there cannot be a contradiction between science and Torah, for science is only here for the sake of Torah! The Rebbe doesn’t fight science, he appreciates it. The Rebbe defiantly is interested in science to progress and develop. Scientific breakthroughs can, and on a daily basis, do, enhance our understanding of Torah[11]. This in addition to the scientific technologies which greatly assist in the dissemination of Torah to the world, such as radio, television, and internet.

The Rebbe firmly believed that the “outside” is a subjective reality. It depends on your approach: if you feel intimidated inside, you will be scared, you will be lonely. If you feel proud and secure, you will just gain respect and support from the “outside”. In the Rebbe’s eyes this is principle that proves true in all circles of influence, beginig from a person in relation to himself, and ending in securing governmental support for religious causes.

And just as Rabbi Soloveichick’s approach may have been fashioned by his great-great-grandfathers philosophy, the Rebbe’s is clearly a modern version of his fore-fathers, the founders of chassidus.

“How can loneliness even exist?”

Indeed, the Rebbe’s response and advice to simple loneliness, the one “regular” people experience at times, I think, also holds the key to the more advanced and deeper “religious” loneliness.

In a letter, dated 15 Elul 5717 (September 1957) the Rebbe writes to someone “who feels lonely and wishes he can live in a different location, although he knows that his current residence has much potential for disseminating Chassidic teachings.”

The Rebbe responds “that the contradiction from your opening statement to the closing one is self-evident, for if your location has much potential in the field of disseminating Chassidus, you obviously aren’t lonely, for those who are receptive to Chassidus create a Chassidisc reality.”

The Rebbe continues: “More so, how can loneliness even exist while G-d is standing above you at this very location and is gazing upon you and is searching your innermost chambers to see if you are serving him properly (as per the Alter Rebbe’s notification in chapter 41 of the Tanya), the Alter Rebbe immediately concludes in practical terms with these words, “therefore one must serve him … one must delve deeply and elaborate upon this meditation.” If you will attempt to contemplate this matter you will immediately discover that you aren’t lonely, to the contrary!”[12]

The Rebbe in this letter does acknowledge the individuals concerns about his place of residence as factual, but he directs him to view them with the proper outlook, that is, that everything G-d has created in the physical worlds are from Klipas Nogah and can be either transformed into good or become negative. If this is the case, all the negative prospects about your place of residence can be transformed for good, if only you see them as they are.

In another letter the Rebbe addresses a similar problem, he cites a saying from his father-in-law that “Chassidus accomplishes that one doesn’t feel lonely, and even more, that one feels closeness and friendship.”[13]

I will end of with direct quotes of both schools of mind on this subject:

Rabbi Soloveitchik writes:

“It is here that the dialogue between the man of faith and the man of culture comes to an end. Modern Adam the second, as soon as he finishes translating religion into the cultural vernacular, and begins to talk the “foreign” language of faith, finds himself lonely, forsaken, misunderstood, at times even ridiculed by Adam the first, by himself. When the hour of estrangement strikes, the ordeal of man of faith begins and he starts his withdrawal from society, from Adam the first—be he an outsider, be he himself. He returns, like Moses of old, to his solitary hiding and to the abode of loneliness. Yes, the loneliness of contemporary man of faith is of a special kind. He experiences not only ontological loneliness but also social isolation, whenever he dares to deliver the genuine faith-kerygma. This is both the destiny and the human historical situation of the man who keeps a rendezvous with eternity, and who, in spite of everything, continues tenaciously to bring the message of faith to majestic man.”

[The Lonely Man of Faith, X:D]

The Rebbe however, tells us:

“One might still raise a question: even if one were to do his work to perfection … to what avail is it considering the fact that “you are the least among the nations,” and that there are the “seventy nations” who so outnumber the “one lamb” − Israel.

In other words, what will be the response of the world and the Gentiles to the Jewish efforts of “disseminating the wellsprings to the remotest reaches,” in order to hasten the true and complete Redemption, since they do not understand what all this means?! Granted, these efforts are indeed noble and sublime, but one might object that we have to consider the world’s reaction!

The answer to this question is: The world is ready and completely receptive! When a Jew performs his work properly, transcending all limits and constraints, and simultaneously channeling these efforts within the parameters of nature, he will see how the world, nature and the nations of the world will assist him in his work.”

[Shabbos Parshas Korach, 5751 (1991)]


Footnotes and Sources

[1] This synopsis is largely based on the entry The Lonely Man of Faith in Wikipedia.

[2] At the aforementioned Farbrengen, at which Rabbi Soloveichik was present, (but to the best of my knowledge after he already departed from the Rebbe) the Rebbe delivered a Hadran on four tractates of Talmud that end with the identical statement: the Torah was given to bring peace to the world. The Rebbe went on to compare the four tractates to the reaction of the four groupings of Jews that formed on the shore of the red sea. Each group, in essence, was presenting a plan how to reconcile, and make peace between, G-d and his world. This talk has much to do with our subject matter, but requires a separate dealing with.

[3] I would also like to add that these approaches are hereby presented as three distinct philosophies, but in a sense that is untrue and misleading, since all three may be employed and must be employed within the individuals life journey at different times, and even simultaneously on different fronts. Even the fourth approach, despite it being rejected from any traditional Jewish viewpoint as a practical approach, has a certain legitimacy, if not even credibility as merely an approach to the quandary of Jewish life in a modern society.

[4] Many Chabad schools in the US and in Israel do include a secular studies program, but that was clearly due to government regulations or due to the nature of Chabad schools in areas that require outreach, to make them attractive to parents who don’t share (yet) the same values.

[5] See Tanya, part I ch. 48; part II, ch. 7.

[6] I would add a clarifying note to this: this statement doesn’t mean that unity of G-d has no impact on practical life, I don’t use the term “theory” to describe the belief of unity, rather “faith.” This is due to various reasons, the main of which is that if it was a matter of theory then we would not be required to observe any practical mitzvos, but our faith of unity calls on us to behave according to it, that is, according to the will of the divine described in the Torah, but it has no effect on the emotional aspect of how I act on this will. In other words: the faith of unity has isn’t theory, it is faith that leads to an impact on the practice, but it limited to that alone. It is dangerous to apply it to emotions since that would lead to create an obscured vision of the truth.

[7] It should be noted that such a concept isn’t foreign to Chasidic thought, in fact, in Tanya ch 27 The Alter Rebbe presents this as the tragedy of the beinoni, a regular person who constantly struggles, but Tanya also offers some condolences for the beinoni – such as understanding that his struggle cusses G-d pleasure, and that while he may not be the winner of this war, but in essence every single victory in his struggle has an everlasting impact, which collectively reveals G-d’s essence in this world ultimately. (ch. 37) Tanya also offers guidance how to reach islands of serenity, through prayer and contemplation. It doesn’t ignore that upon leaving the synagogue or study hall, that inspiration may come to pass. It even makes it clear to point out that that one shouldn’t live in illusion of himself and that the natural “I” is selfish and unrefined, yet the tone of the battle is a happier one overall.

[This concept is clearly stated and dealt with at length in Kuntres Etz Chayim, ch. 7. In short, the Rebbe Rashab states that while Yichuda tatath is what is within the average person’s reach, he must nonetheless strive to to also touch on Yichuda Ila’ah, for if not, he will lose even his attainable reach.]

It is noteworthy, that unlike other religions, lhavdil, the factions within (halachic) Judaism do not disagree on fundamentals, which allows them all to be legitimate, even if they offer harsh criticism on each other. The points of contempt are only on what to emphasize. This point is illustrated by the fact that every school of thought shares ideas of the other one negating it, the above is a telling example.

[8] Tanya ch, 2

[9] Tanya ch, 25.

[10] While both are true, it is interesting to note that even on Rosh Hashanah, which in Chassidic thought is the time of G-d’s coronation, we recite the “Avinu Malkenu” prayer, in which every request to G-d is prefaced with the opening “Our father, Our king” – with the fatherly aspect mentioned prior to the “Kingly aspect”.

[11] One famous example is the discovery of the atoms, the unifying force of all of nature. The Rebbe uses this concept to explain the concept of the oneness of G-d.

[12] Free rendition from Igros Kodesh vol 15 pp 414.

[13] Igros Kodesh vol. 17 pp 10.