The Lonely G-d


Rest For a Weary Traveler

Do you ever feel lonesome? Utterly alone? With no one to turn to and no one able to understand you? Join the club. Imagine a lonely soul wandering endlessly, with no where to rest his head. Finally the day comes and he finds a place he can call home. Read on and discover the surprising company that loneliness shares. And what you can do to find comfort in a desolate world.

Many, many theories have been posited about G-d. Does He care or does He not care about mankind and earthly matters? How does He allow evil as an all-good G-d? Does He exist in our pain and suffering? Is He a He or a She, neither or both? Does G-d exist and if so why don’t we see Him? Does G-d exist like we exist or in another form?

What type of personality does G-d have? Is He angry, kind or detached?

Then there are the questions about how G-d runs or doesn’t run the universe. Is G-d present and involved in every detail, or has He set the machine in motion, checking in from time to time? Does Divine Providence govern every detail of our lives?

And of course, discussions abound around the purpose of existence. Why did G-d create the universe? What is our role in the picture? Does G-d “gain” anything from our existence?

One can say that all the above is true. G-d manifests in many different ways and expressions, even contrary ones. Indeed, the mystics explain that every possible human “mood” and “state of mind” originates from a Divine source. So though G-d in His essence transcends all definitions and anthropomorphic characteristics, at the same time He is able to generate every possible type of experience.

Considering all these notions about G-d and His all-powerful “personality,” I had this week a profound epiphany about an unexpected dimension of G-d – a “vulnerable” one at that, and one that I believe can offer us great comfort.

While reading this week’s Torah portion, in which G-d commands Moses “build Me a sanctuary and I will rest among them,” a sad thought struck me: How lonely G-d must have been without us? Until the sanctuary was built, G-d in effect was “homeless,” without a place to rest. What could it feel like wandering forever in the infinite past, with no place to call home? In fact, until this verse was communicated we would never have thought that G-d would need a place to “rest.” After all, rest is only for weak mortals. How and why would an omnipotent G-d need to “rest?” But after G-d tells Moses “build Me a sanctuary and I will rest among them,” it becomes glaringly clear that up to that point G-d had no place to rest…

At first glance, we may be inclined to explain that the Divine presence in the Temple was not built for G-d, but for us humans, a place where mere mortals can experience the Divine. All of our lives, and all day long we are involved in our mundane struggle for survival; the holy Sanctuary provides us with a sacred environment where G-d rests among us, offering us just that – sanctuary and protection from our pedestrian lives, where we can rest our weary souls and find some heavenly consolation.

But when read closely, “build Me a sanctuary and I will rest among them,” it is very obvious that the Sanctuary is not just a place for us to meet G-d, but also a place for G-d to “rest” His presence.

This point is only amplified when G-d tells Solomon (the builder of the first temple in Jerusalem): “Heavens and heavens of heavens cannot contain me; only this house can.” How ever you explain it, G-d clearly did not feel at home in the infinite cosmos – despite all their grand and magnificent glory. Until the temple was built on planet Earth G-d did not have a place to “rest.”

“G-d traveled a journey of 500 years to acquire Himself a name,” states a cryptic Midrash (Kohelet Rabba 7:2). Loneliness, it appears, is not merely a mortal concern. The Almighty Himself is in search for “company.”

I find the concept both disturbing and comforting. At times, we all experience moments of existential loneliness. Regardless of all our loved ones, of all our accomplishments and accolades, deep (or not so deep) inside ourselves there is a part that always remain very much alone. We may distract ourselves, party away, get carried off by all types of stimulation and entertainment; but at the end of the day, that silent isolated center beckons from within.

Indeed, the deeper you travel into your innermost recesses, the less anyone can enter that space, the harder it is to express your self, the more alone you are. At your most intimate core, you are all alone.

A lonely verse in the sad book of Kohelet captures the sentiment: “There is one who is alone with no second, and he has neither son nor brother” (Ecclesiastes 4:8).

What then is so comforting about this loneliness? It’s comforting to know that we are not alone in our loneliness. G-d too is very lonely on top, in His core and essence.

This loneliness derives from strength, not weakness, from the fact that G-d is absolutely unique, “He is one, and there is no other like Him.” The same with our core: Our most lonely place – our essence – is a reflection of our profound individuality and inimitability. You are alone in that intimate place not because you are a pariah or because you are loathed; you are alone at your center because you are utterly unique, in a way that no one else can really “get you.”

Your essence may not be a very dramatic place. It does not have the hoopla and fireworks that comes along with all the busy machinations of our lives; it does not have the “party” element that accompanies our social interactions. When we are involved with more outer, superficial levels, we can celebrate and experience these moments with others. But your essence, though it isn’t very colorful, is your unique center, and as such, you experience it alone.

And yet, as special as the Divine Essence may be, G-d traveled on a journey to find “company,” to find a home in which He can rest. Divine revelation manifests in the “heavens and heavens of heavens;” the beauty of nature captures the majesty of the Divine Designer. But, G-d is His lonely Essence, rests and feels at home only in the Sanctuary in Earth.

Same with us: Just like G-d, we are not satisfied with living “within,” isolated and apart from others. We need to build a space that we can call home; a sanctuary where we find respite; an environment where we can finally rest our lonely souls. It’s one thing to find solace in family and friends; it’s quite another to find a comfortable home for the lonely core of our souls.

[The mystics explain that “One who is alone” is the level of the Divine Infinite Light that does not manifest in relationships (“He has neither son nor brother”). The concept of relationships is only in the way the Divine manifests in the finite – in the structure of the ten spheres, the ten building blocks of existence (Ohr HaTorah on Kohelet, p. 1115). However, the ultimate purpose is to unite the infinite and the finite, the “one who is alone” with our relationships].

So the next time you feel all alone, remember two things: You are not alone; your loneliness is shared by every soul and by G-d Himself. Every essence is fundamentally alone.

Second: Build a sanctuary out of your material life, sanctify the money and belongings you were blessed with – and that will provide your lonely essence – and the Essence of the G-d – a warm home in which to rest in comfort.


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ezra ben Asher
14 years ago

in HIS infinite mercy HE shows HIMSELF

to be lonely so we HIS children can

get close to HIM.

as a mother pretends to be sad and

upset so her children can come close

to comfort her.

daniela lowinger
14 years ago

Great article! in a sensitive way you bring heaven down to earth and earth up to heaven. Thank you.

14 years ago

Thank you for this… I have wrestled with why G-d would require a tabernacle… I had not thought of it with the existential of dynamic of isolation in mind… this helped me.

shirley somerman
14 years ago

This came on my email at a time that I needed to rethink the world I live in,, thank you

14 years ago

What a disturbing article. While the lonely will be quick to refuse contest, and I do not count myself as belonging to another group, please tell me why you chose to define G-d as alone and not complete and capable. Agreed, G-d sought haven in the tabernacle but more so containment and tangible (in a way) expression through the thoughts, reverence and artistry of man. Or through the pure existence of a
tree, if you will. Challenged and alone in increasingly yukky circumstances your article dismembered what the I felt had come this very morning as a relieving insight: Freedom of choice is the arranger of pathological choice but divine arrangements have an entirely different fabric – G-d manages multiplicity with expertise (the Shekinah and the Sitra Acha , no?) and so can we…

Shabbat Shalom

John from Weston, FL
14 years ago

Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

Enjoyed your DVar Torah as usual but please consider the following: We cannot say that G-d is lonely. This would be saying that he is incomplete. And we know given Ayn Ol Melvado
( i.e. there is nothing besides him ), that he lacks nothing because he is everything. Chassidus teaches us that the true meaning of the verse build me a santuary and I will rest among them can be found in the seemingly incorrect grammatical use of the word them. It should have read …i will rest among it, i.e. the sanctuary. The use of the word them indicates that Hashem will rest within us. In other words, each of us has the ability to build a sanctuary within ourselves. A mini- Bais Hamikdash within our souls. By allowing our G-dly soul to express itself in our thought, speech and action we construct this mini-sanctuary and thus allow Hashem to rest within us. Good Shabbos.

Ellen Ziskind
14 years ago

This is the best explanation of the lonely core we in each of us that I have ever read. Thank you for your beautiful and lucid explanation.

Ande Fine
14 years ago

I enjoyed this article so much. I was of the belief that I needed to do something when I felt lonely. That feeling lonely was bad. I believed that when I felt lonely, I was alone and something was wrong with me. Had I had not done the right thing, made the right decisions in my life or in a particular day? After reading this article and looking around at my beautiful home (sactuary), I find comfort (reassurance) in knowing I am normal and healthy to feel lonely.

Linda Goddard
14 years ago

Thank you for this thoughtful article on the uniqueness of God and hence our own, since we are all his children and share this loneliness with Him.

14 years ago

Its nice & pround to be among yours students.

14 years ago

I very much agree with the comments about being careful how we attribute anthropomorphisms to HaShem. Much like the Medrash telling us that G-d rested after creating the world, we can say that He exhibited some form of lonelinesss so that we could see how He overcame it and thus so likewise. Please be VERY careful in the future. I *Love* and really appreciate the /DDivrei Tora/ from this site, buy yhis one seems to be walking on some very thin ice.

lynn rice
14 years ago

It seems from the beginning G-d had His feminine aspect, the Shechinah. And while there was completeness in Him, apparently there was a yearning, like Solomon, for His beloved. Solomons thousand wives were as one wife – the Beloved. With G-d the Beloved is the entire Jewish nation. When G-d said, “build Me a sanctuary and I will rest among them”, it was like a Chupah – a resting place with His Beloved. Today the tabernacle and the Chupah is each individual in the Beloved – a resting place for Shechinah. After experiencing the loneliness, it is a great comfort.

Shulamit Rothenberg
14 years ago

Oh, to unite our lonely souls, in the knowledge of the ultimate lonely one!

Thank you, so much, Rabbi, for your wonderful insights.

As humans, and finite beings, we need the anthropomorphic in our lives, to mentally grasp the eternal, in some sort of way.

What a beautiful sanctuary you have created with your reassurance that loneliness is, not only universal, but divine in its uniqueness.

I will continue to build my sanctuary, on this earthly plane, in order for my lonely spirit to find comfort until it is united, at last, with the Shechinah, Ha-Shem.

Blessings to you for your wonderful work.


11 years ago

The Eternal Essence of G-d from the eternal sphere has always wanted a deep and abiding relationship with His Creation…and man in particular.

The loneliness and longing within each of us is because deep within the essence of our being we are seeking The Ultimate Consumation in Him as Bridegroom and Lover of Our Souls.
Thank you for your thought provoking insights…

Justin C Beck
4 years ago

Does a king need a kingdom? Does a man need a son/daughter? Does G-d need Creation? Are these needs, wants, desires, wishes, fantasies? According to recent scientific/sociologic accepted understanding man/woman only needs shelter, food, and clothing. Everything else is a want/desire/etc… Each one of us deep down is lonely. We receive for the self alone and then learn to share (some do), emulating the formation of Creation. (shattering of the vessels) In this brokenness we are self aware and experience our loneliness. As we are something from no thing, does no thing, aka G-d, experience loneliness? Only G-d knows.

Avi Ehrman
3 years ago

I always enjoy the great content, but as some have pointed out, based on everything I’ve learned until now, were forbidden to say that HKBH is lacking something!! One is never allowed to talk about his essence, we have to be humble and acknowledge that we are not able to grasp everything.

Good Shabbos

The Meaningful Life Center