Rav Joseph Soloveitchik's "Lonely Man of Faith" is no novel figure. Today's society embraces atheist more than any other era before, but to live a life truly dedicated to faith at the expense of certain worldly pleasures and experiences is rare. It has always been uncommon to find profound solace or truth in a belief rejected or only outwardly accepted and practiced by society.

Many Jewish teenagers today reject their "loneliness" to the detriment of their faith. They would rather not be lonely, so they would rather have no meaningful religion. 

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But who am I to dictate religious expression? What authority do I wield in the realm of the Divine? None. Yet, I am seized with a terrible pain when I see my Jewish peers turn from lonely young men and women of faith (at varying degrees) into no-longer-lonely individuals of compliant and inconsequential tradition.

How many times have I heard that "we're not religious, but at least we're traditional?" Or maybe "we had him bar mitzvah-ed, so at least he feels Jewish?" Individuals like these appreciate their ancestral faith, but feel no attachment to it other than one of a dutiful obligation to tradition--  bar/bat mitzvahs and Shabbat dinners -- rather than a devotion to faith -- a life of learning and religious conviction, at whatever level that may be. When a religious identity is formed out of birthright instead of conviction, it becomes malleable in the worst way. Sacrifices are made in order to "not be lonely." A lonely young man of faith quickly gives way to a "modern" young man of empty tradition.

The general rule with religion and spirituality is that you are not moving forward, you are moving back. And my generation of predominantly wanting-to-be-less-lonely young men and women is most definitely creeping back. Synagogue is attended only prior to bar/bat mitzvahs and prayers are said only to fulfill the obligation to read Hebrew. Being Jewish is viewed increasingly as a tradition that is a burden more than anything else and is likely to be shed in college.

I do not want to end on a negative note, leaving the reader with the thought that once young Jews have gone, there is no return. Not at all. There are ways to end young Jewish "loneliness" and adherence to "blind tradition." To that effect, I propose two solutions that I have seen work beautifully.

To all my Jewish co-generationists (and co-faith-ists), I propose a challenge to you: do not let yourself be lonely. It is no virtue to be an ascetic in your search for deeper faith. In fact, is it not said that "two are better than one" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Is it not encouraged to have a chavruta, a partner and friend in Torah learningThe lonely man of faith is only lonely among those who have none. When you surround yourself with people who share your love of G-D, you instead become the fulfilled and social young adult of faith.

To those of you who are regressing in religion, I urge you to engage in one familiar religious practice that you find meaningful for one week, be it prayer, modest dress or kashrut. Instead of letting your religion become meaningless tradition, let religion become meaningful religion. You may find this practice strange at first, but as you let it become part of your life, you will notice how the practice enhances it. 

Whatever you choose, I am not going to judge your level of religiosity. The extent to which and the manner in which each individual expresses their relationship to G-D is up to them. But I beg my Jewish peers to not succumb to faux faith in the guise of tradition, devoid of meaning, and instead wish to see them move forward in Judaism and Jewishness. I offer my words as a bridge from a vacuum to meaning, and from tradition to faith. I offer my experience as a suggestion for strengthening religious conviction. I offer my friendship as a means to no longer be the "lonely" young man or woman of faith.

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Please take me up on my offer of friendship! You can find me on Facebook at Leora Noor Eisenberg or on Twitter @LeoraEisenberg. I can't wait to connect with you.
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