Wednesday, March 1, 2017

If You Build It, He Will Come

In the classic movie, Field of Dreams, the lead character while standing in a cornfield in Iowa hears a strange voice calling to him, “If you build it, he will come”. Soon he plows over his corn bushels, transforming his farm into a baseball field and the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson turns up to play ball with his former teammates. This is not the end of the movie though. I don’t want to give away any spoilers here. If you want to know the rest of the story, rent the film.

You van watch the video clip below.

 

I think of this quote a great deal when learning through this week’s Parsha and the ones that follow. In the beginning of Parshat Terumah, God commands the Children of Israel to build for him a Mishkan, a house of God saying:

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃


And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.

The Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh points out that God does not say to build him a sanctuary in order to dwell in it. Rather he says that he will dwell in them. The Temple is not the place where God, so to speak, dwells. Rather it is by our act of building the Temple that God dwells in us.

This is stated directly by King Shelomo when he describes the building of the First Temple in Kings 1, Chapter 2. He says:

הַבַּ֨יִת הַזֶּ֜ה אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֣ה בֹנֶ֗ה אִם־תֵּלֵ֤ךְ בְּחֻקֹּתַי֙...


With regard to this House you are building—if you follow My laws...

וְשָׁ֣כַנְתִּ֔י בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹ֥א אֶעֱזֹ֖ב אֶת־עַמִּ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃


I will abide among the children of Israel, and I will never forsake My people Israel.”

Through the building of the Temple, God will dwell amongst the Jewish people.

Rabbi David Fohrman finds an interesting hint to this idea from the name of the chief architect of the Mishkan, Bezalel. The name בצלאל is actually a contraction of two Hebrew words, בצלם אלוקים, the words in Bereishit God uses to describe human beings, the only creations fashioned in the image of God.

The message is clear. The Torah devotes four plus parshiot to the work of the Mishkan both to its conception and construction. This is more space than almost any other mitzvah in the Torah. The reason I believe is because the Mishkan is the one holy endeavor involving all of the creative activities known to humanity. It includes artists and artisans, goldsmiths and seamstresses, musicians and construction workers, and the list goes on and on. It is through utilizing our passions for creative godly pursuits that one discovers the godliness embedded in us.

A few years back, I connected this to the yearly celebration at Yeshivat Frisch known as Shiriyah. Read more here.

When we use our creativity for Torah and mitzvot, God will dwell not in a building, but in the hearts of each of us.

If you build it, he will come.