It is not Good for Humans to be Alone (Bereshit 2:18)
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
This week we are starting the reading of the Torah again, reading the book of Bereshit. Among other topics, we will read about God’s creation of the world. It is interesting to note that after each creation, God contemplated what he had made and said that it was good.
For example, it is written in the Torah: “God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of waters He called Seas. And God saw that this was good.” (Bereshit 1:10), “The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that this was good.” (Idem 12), “God made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. And God saw that this was good.” (Idem 25)
After all what God had created, the text says: “And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Idem 31)
Apparently, everything was very good. God was pleased with his creation. However, in chapter two, we find for the first time that God admitted that something was not good. There was something missing from all that God had created. What was it?
It is written in the Book of Bereshit: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for humans to be alone...” (2:18)
Usually, commentators understand this verse explaining the importance of living as a couple and forming a family. However, I believe that we can also understand this verse saying that God, contemplating his creation, realized that when human beings feel lonely, something is missing, something is not good.
It is interesting to note that, among all the problems we may find in this world, God highlighted loneliness as the first one.
Without a doubt, loneliness is a common human feeling. It is not necessarily defined by whether you live with other people or alone. Someone can live around many people but feel lonely. On the contrary, someone can live alone, but feel the connection and closeness of other people.
The Jewish tradition encourages us to take care of each other and accompany each other. It is written in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falls, for he has not another to help him up”.
In the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, we find many examples of people who felt lonely for different reasons and could alleviate that feeling in some way.
Moses found himself lonely in his leadership role, and then, he learned how to work with others instead of working alone. King David cried out to God in times of loneliness, and found comfort through the act of praying and connecting with God. Job was lonely in his sufferings, and then, he found comfort in the support and company of his friends.
The feeling of loneliness is a fundamental part of the human experience. It has existed since the creation of the world, but God tells us that “It is not good for humans to be alone” and offers us ways to alleviate our loneliness.
One of the key values of the Jewish tradition is to accompany and support our fellows in times of suffering. We have the Guemilut Chasadim Mitzvot, the Mitzvot related to good deeds such as Bikkur Cholim, visiting the sick, Nichum Avelim, comforting the mourners, Hachnasat Orhcim, welcoming the stranger and Tzedakah, helping the needy person.
One of our goals as a congregation is to ensure that no one feels lonely. The congregation should be the support, connection, and company for each one of its members.
Let’s follow the teachings of our ancestors Moses, King David, and Job, finding ways to overcome our own feelings of loneliness and those of others, especially in this time of a pandemic.
Remember that you always have the support, the company, and warmth of your Temple Beth El. You have a big family ready to embrace you and support you, and encourage you to call on us. As the Torah says: “It is not good for human beings to be alone.”