The cast of Friends showed us a remarkable tales of friendship. They were there for each other through breakups, weddings, unexpected pregnancies, crazy schemes, and failed careers. Always with perfect comic timing, they helped one another quit bad habits and take on new adventures, knowing that no matter what happened, these six people would be there to support each other.
The premise of the show (and the catchy theme song) was that friends are always there for each other. But in reality we all go through moments when we feel like no one will understand us and we are completely alone in the world. In these times it’s easy to feel isolated, scared, or nervous. However it manifests itself, the feeling of being helplessly alone is never good. Our parshah this week is Vayetzei and details Jacob’s journey alone as he flees from his angry brother. Jacob doesn’t know where this journey will take him or what will happen next. Perhaps paralyzed by this feeling, Jacob rests for the night, and he has restless dreams about angels and God and then wakes up and proclaims this place holy.
But throughout it all, Jacob still feels alone; that is, until God finally chimes in directly. In chapter 28, verse 15 Jacob finally learns that he is never going to be alone in the world, no matter how lost he feels. God says “And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that about which I have spoken to you.” Jacob arises from his slumber with a new-found hope knowing that God is with him. God is with us. In moments of despair or complete isolation, God reminds us that He is there, with us, forever, wherever we go.
I first fell in love with this Torah verse in the fall of 2007, a time when I was deep in despair and feeling isolated. My father had died that August, and my peer group of young adults did not yet really understand the grief associated with the death of a parent. But God’s words brought me comfort: “I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken to you.” Not only was God with me, but in these words I knew that my father was with me. Spiritually, he was with me because my journey was not complete. After a while I was able to regain the trust that I would never be alone as long as I had my faith in God.
It’s not easy to feel connected to God in moments of isolation. Jacob certainly did not lead an easy life, but from this moment on, his despair is tempered by the knowledge that no matter what, God is on his side. In those moments where even having family or a group of friends who can work through any problem on a couch at a coffee shop doesn’t seem to be enough, know that you are not alone because God is with you. In those moments when it feels like even God is distant, do what Jacob did. Take a break, rest, and remember to see the holiness around you.
THIS TOO IS TORAH
Additional lyrics were later added to the Friends theme song when it became a hit. One of the added lines is:
“No one could ever know me, no one could ever see me, since you’re the only one who knows what it’s like to be me.”
Do you think God somehow sympathizes with Jacob? Since we’re created in God’s image, does God know what it’s like to be you?