To isolate the leper was necessary in order to protect the community. Precautions had to be taken to reduce the possibility of contagion.
But the subject of isolation does not begin or end with the leper. There are other kinds of isolation which are essential.
• Abraham isolated himself from the corrupting, idolatrous environment; he was Avraham Ha-Ivri, concerning which our tradition says that he stood on one ever – one side of the world – and his contemporaries on the other.
• Moses isolated himself when he ascended Mount Sinai; to commune with God he needed to separate himself from the pressures and problems of leadership.
• Bilam isolated himself; vayelech shefi, “he went to be alone” when he had a great decision to think through.
• Elijah isolated himself: when Ahab was after him and he needed to find serenity of spirit he went into the wilderness where there was no noise but only kol demamah dakkah, “the sound of thin silence”.
As community-minded people, we believe in being with others. We do not believe in monk-like withdrawal from life. But you can have too much of the noise, the bustle, the pressure and the demands of always being surrounded by others. There are times to be alone.
A Chassidic teacher says, “A person who does not have an hour to him or herself every day is not a person”.