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Tevet 14

This is why people say, "Either companionship or death" (Taanis 23a).

The Talmud quotes this aphorism after relating the story of Choni, who awoke after a sleep of seventy years, and, because everyone whom he had known had died, was totally without friends. When he found that no one of the new generation appreciated him, he prayed for death as an escape from an intolerable existence.

One does not have to sleep for seventy years to be alone. Many people are "loners," deprived of the comfort of sharing their lives with others. Much of their loneliness may be self-inflicted.

Withdrawal from human contact is invariably caused by a negative self-image. People who think poorly of themselves assume that others will not welcome them and in fact that they will reject them. To avoid the pain of possible rejection, they simply withdraw from human contact and retreat behind a wall of isolation that they erect to keep people away. Unfortunately, such a wall is not only a barrier; it becomes a prison.

I dealt with this subject in my book Let Us Make Man (C.I.S. Publishing 1987). There are ways that we can overcome the negative self-image, but before we can implement such techniques, we must be aware of the problem: we have indeed isolated ourselves due to faulty self-perception.

Today I shall...

try to analyze whether I have as many friends as I would like, and if not, whether this may not be due to my withdrawal.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Anonymous, December 21, 2010 8:42 PM

Other reasons for loneliness

While I do not disagree with what is said here, there is so much to loneliness than fear of rejection. For example, the growing numbers of adults living alone make it more difficult to have frequent contact with others if one is not employed, works from home or is unable to easily get out. In addition, people like me who suffer from PTSD and similar disorders may be less likely to form new, close relationships due to fear of pain, not simple rejection. I could go on, but you get the point. I fit in both of these groups. I am not a loner by choice. I am gregarious and have several wonderful close friends, not all of whom live nearby, but it is difficult to get out and about and make new friends as old ones die off.

(1) mysteries, December 31, 2009 11:11 PM

One cannot be judged by the number of friends one has,. The friend is a flawed concept. If one analyses one who has friends then it can be drawn that that person is useful to the others and they extract some benefit from that person. The emotions associated with the inter relationships are just airs and graces and do not have a real meaning. Humans maybe a social animal but when it comes to religion and spirituality then it has no connection. Religion and spirituality were not made for getting on in a secular social life. Any friendship involves secular thought and does not support the spiritual side of oneself for different people have different personalities and these do not concur on issues of religion and spirituality. Trying to fit in does require effort but why effect ones needs and temperament. Those who are obsessed with friendships and social networking are not sincere with themselves and can be deluded on life.

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