The Loner

The Loner
August 11, 2016 Yaakov Lyons

Did you ever see 968522b45632ef278849eeffb9a09734a “one-man band”?

Even though that instrumental loner might never win a Tony, you have to admit—it kinda works.  Kinda.

What about a “one-person O.R.”?

Imagine being on the cold table, and, while the medical professional is snapping on those bright blue gloves and organizing the scalpels, she says, “I will be your head surgeon, anesthesiologist, operating nurse, and hospital janitorial staff today.”  Uh-oh.

This Sunday is Tisha B’Av, the date that both the first and second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.  The Book of Lamentations, by Jeremiah, is read in the synagogue at night.  Poetically personifying Jerusalem, Lamentations begins with the phrase, “Oh how she sits alone!”  Fascinatingly, Jeremiah’s phrase echoes a line in this week’s Torah reading.  Moses cries to the Jewish people, “Oh how can I bear your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels alone?”  The same uncommon Hebrew word, “Eicha,” is used in both phrases to mean “Oh how.”

While the question “Oh how” seems to be rhetorical, there is parallel theme in these verses which answers the question of how failure and destruction occur:

By being alone.

The destroyed city sits alone.  Moses cannot bear the difficulties of the Jews alone.

Judaism is possibly the greatest project in history.  Its ideals of equality before the law, literacy, and monotheism have shaped the West.  Its proclamation that the world can be improved has become integral to our modern worldview.  Our society has tried to incorporate some Jewish values.  Yet, just like an original song is better than a cover—think of the one-man band playing “Yesterday,”—Judaism is still worthy of attention.  But the goals of the greatest project in history cannot be accomplished on the shoulders of one gifted individual.  It needs all of us, together.  Even Moses reaches out to us, with all his greatness, and says “I can’t do it alone.”  And when Jeremiah wanted to tell us that Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, he only had to tell us one thing, “She sits alone.”

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