When Ya’akov was ‘levado,’ he was truly alone


One of the fascinating themes in Parashat Vayishlach is Ya’akov’s wrestling with an anonymous man, as the Torah states: “Vayivater Ya’akov levado (and Ya’akov was alone), and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.” (Seer Bereishit 32:25) 

There are three other times in Chamisha Chumshei Torah wherein the word levado (alone) is employed in reference to major Biblical figures:  And Hashem Elokim said, “It is not good that man is levado, I shall make him a helpmate opposite him.” And they set for him (Yosef) levado and for them (Yosef’s brothers) levadom. And Moshe levado shall approach Hashem but they shall not approach, and the people shall not ascend with him.

In the first instance, Adam’s aloneness was absolute, he was literally the only person in world.

The Torah’s description of Yosef’s physical distance from his brothers in the banquet hall depicts the state of alienation that existed between them before Yosef revealed himself as their long-lost brother.

Finally, the Torah’s statement, “and Moshe levado shall approach Hashem” to receive the Torah is congruent with the idea that he was different in kind and degree from any prophet who had ever lived or would ever live. As the Rambam writes: “What is the difference between Moshe’s prophecy and that of all the other prophets? …  Moshe would prophesy while standing awake. … Moshe [would prophesy] without the medium of an angel.” (Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 7:6)

As such, in Moshe’s case, levado is far more than a statement of who was allowed to ascend Har Sinai. Instead, it is a description of Moshe’s singular spiritual uniqueness, and consequent aloneness.

Just as the term levado is closely tied to these biblical figures, so, too, is it connected to the entire Jewish people:

For from their beginning, I see them as mountain peaks, and I behold them as hills; it is a nation that will dwell levadad and will not be reckoned among the nations. (Bamidbar 23:9).

Unlike the other nations of the world, our people, alone, have remained unwavering in devotion to Hashem. As we find in the following selection from the first paragraph of the Aleinu:

“It is our duty to praise the Master of all, to proclaim the greatness to He who forms all creation. For He did not make us like the nations of other lands and did not make us the same as other families of the Earth. He did not grant us the same portion, and our destiny is not the same as that of all others. … Hashem is our G-d, there is none other. Our King is truth, and nothing else exists besides Him.”