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(Tazria) - "Isolated for seven days: Solitaire, anyone?"

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ––Carl Jung

But if the bright patch on the skin is white but does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall quarantine the patient for seven days. – Leviticus 13:4

This white discoloration on the skin was to be diagnosed only by the priest. This skin
discoloration has often been translated as leprosy, but most acknowledge that the malady is not how we understand leprosy today. It was an affliction of spiritual origin, viewed by many as a physical consequence of engaging in gossip or slander. To remedy this terrible ailment, the priest first had to diagnose the nature of the affliction to determine if the individual needed to isolate for a week. If the afflicted person woke up one morning and noticed their predicament, they couldn’t discreetly self-isolate or shelter in place. They were required to approach the priest to ascertain the nature of the condition, thus compelling the individual to acknowledge this spiritual malady and make it public. 1 Functionally, this physical and social isolation separated the individual from others, impeding further efforts to speak about people behind their backs. This isolation may also have facilitated the individual looking inward to reassess their actions to prevent succumbing to the same spiritual flaw in the future. Upon concluding the forced isolation period, the priest authorized the person’s return to their community. The hope was that the person would emerge an improved version of themselves.

Alone again (naturally)

Most work settings highlight teamwork and recognize its benefits to the individual and the organization. Its many rewards include increasing efficiency, tapping the benefits of diversity, promoting collaboration, and facilitating feedback exchange. However, trendy work formats (such as whatever currently reigns as the Holy Grail of management) are, by definition, a distortion, and teamwork is no exception. Indeed, Susan Cain has cited numerous psychologists claiming that individuals can be more creative when working alone and uninterrupted, concluding that solitude at work is underrated and underexploited. 2 Cain calls our inclination to overdo teamwork “The New Groupthink.” Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs’ co- founder of Apple, wrote in his memoir:

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me—they’re shy and live in their
heads. They’re almost like artists…and artists work best alone…I don’t believe
anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. I’m going to give you
some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone…not on a
committee. Not on a team. 3 Determining your ideal work format is an individual decision; don’t look for a cookie-cutter solution. However, adding solitude to your professional tool chest can benefit you at work and, more importantly, in life. As the flipside of brainstorming, it allows you to flow with your thoughts without having to react immediately to others’ stimuli; it enables dissecting a problem using your own logic and thought processes; it allows you to know yourself better and, considering the long term, evaluate where you really want to be and what you really want to be doing. Through no fault of our own, experiencing isolation was common during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing severe personal and organizational disruption. Routines were upended. People were compelled to stay away from their regular work setting, spending more time with their families, with some taking the rare opportunity to restructure their lives. This new reality pushed many, especially those not used to thinking alone quietly, to revisit their priorities. 4 During this interruption of the inertia of day-to-day work, people began questioning which workplace culture was right for them: Did they have to tolerate their problematic supervisor? Was their current work-family balance the best they could hope for? Thus, the pandemic led workers to reexamine their employment routine, seek a change within the organization, pursue new employment, or reduce or redistribute their working hours. This phenomenon has been widely acknowledged and termed “The Great Resignation,” 5 “The Great Attrition,” 6 and “Quiet Quitting.” Sadly, the pandemic also had ramifications that included a surge of challenges to marriage and partnership bonds for
numerous reasons.

Career Tips:

  • Interestingly, one benefit of restructuring work habits is the proliferation of remote
    video meetings and collaboration. Many have found the remote and hybrid
    frameworks effective in maximizing the respective advantages of group time and alone time, leading to enhanced creativity and productivity, like being alone together. 
  • Scheduling alone time can be challenging, especially for parents of small children. However, it is important to prioritize this time for your own well-being. For example, getting enough sleep is essential to maintaining a healthy mind and body. Contrary to what you might think, getting an extra hour of sleep can actually increase your productivity, boost your immune system, and even extend your life. Similarly, taking time for yourself has been shown to reduce burnout and improve creative thinking. Therefore, it is important to view this time as an investment in yourself and your family’s health. Don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself!
  • Try this: To create productive alone time, try taking some of your lunch breaks
    alone, either inside or outside your workplace. You could also schedule regular alone time during or after working hours. You may be surprised by the quality of new thinking you encounter, which could enrich your work and personal life.

1 Even-Israel (Steinsaltz), A. (2011). Chayei olam: Talks on parashat hashavua. Maggid Publishing.
2 Cain, S. (2012, Jan. 13), The rise of the new groupthink, The New York Times.
3 Wozniak, S. (2007). iWoz: Computer geek to cult icon: How I invented the personal computer, cofounded Apple
and had fun doing it (p. 290). W. W. Norton & Company.
4 McConnell, L. (2020). Hoping to get a new job post-pandemic? Here’s how to figure out what you
actually want.
5 Newport, C. (2021). Why are so many knowledge workers quitting? The New Yorker.
6 De Smet, A., Dowling, B., Mugayar-Baldocchi, M., & Schaninger. B. (2021). ‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great
Attraction’? The choice is yours. McKinsey and Company.
7 Littman-Ovadia, H. (2019). Doing–being and relationship–solitude: A proposed model for a
balanced life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20, 1953–1971

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