In this weeks parsha G-d instructs Moshe to have Bnei Yisrael build a Mishkan. It states in Chapter 25 pasuk 9
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
“they shall make a sanctuary for me – so that I may dwell among them.” The question arises; why does it say dwell among “them” in the plural form? The correct wording would be in the singular form and I will dwell in it.
There are several explanations as to the purpose of the Mishkan. The Sforno explains that the Mishkan was a response to the sin of the golden calf. The revelation at Sinai should have been the quintessential spiritual experience for the Jews, permanently connecting G-d to the people and subsequently to the world. After we sinned with the golden calf we displayed the need for a physical manifestation through which to serve G-d. It became necessary to build a Mishkan and later the Bet Hamikdash and even today Batei Kenesset as physical receptacles of the divine presence. G-d desires a relationship and permitted us, by default, to build a place where we can connect to and serve Him, since we proved to have the need.
The highest level of ועשו לי מקדש is not found in a particular place. The ideal goal is not to access G-d in a physical structure, but to have an intimate relationship with G-d and have Him residing within each and every one of us. The ultimate “asu li mikdash” is in yourself. Rav Hirsch says that G-d is stating His will to Am Yisrael commanding us to make ourselves holy and only then will He reside among us.
All the externals, the shuls, and accessories that man has come to depend upon are intended as aids to accomplish that which man failed to do himself. Ideally one should be able to elevate himself from within instead of relying on material aids or specific locations. G-d gave us the opportunity for a direct line of communication at Sinai. Our failure by building the golden calf demonstrated our need for an intermediary. We were not able to actualize our relationship with G-d in the way in which it was intended. G-d, therefore gave us tools to aid in our coming close to Him. May we one day merit to perfect our relationship with G-d, thus bringing His presence to down into the world and providing the proper environment for our ultimate redemption.