If You Build It, He Will Come

In the classic film, Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella, the lead character, hears a voice while standing in his cornfield in Iowa which tells him, “If you build it, He will come”. Soon Ray, with the support of his wife and young daughter, plows over his corn bushels, transforming his farm into a baseball field with the hope that Shoeless Joe Jackson will appear. Shoeless Joe is one of the baseball greats of yesteryear who was banned from the game for his alleged participation in throwing the 1919 World Series in the famous Black Sox scandal. Shoeless Joe does in fact arrive as ghosts with his teammates, but he is not the one who comes to play catch with Ray. I don’t want to give away any spoilers here. If you want to find out who comes, watch the movie.

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 when the people build a Temple, He will dwell in them. The Temple is not the place where God, so to speak, dwells. God is infinite and cannot be limited to a specific building. Rather it is by our act of building the Temple that God dwells in us.

This is stated directly by King Shlomo 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 dwell 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 which God uses to describe the fashioning of the human being, the only living thing created in the image of God.

We have seen many examples of this divine spark in our Jewish brothers and sisters over the past four months. Recently, a clip went viral of a young man driving to the Nova Music Festival on the morning of October 7th while reciting the prayer we say each morning, אלוקי נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא.

Rabbi Manis Friedman comments about the godly visage of this man who while not wearing a kippah or any other traditional Jewish garment is singing and smiling as he exclaims how every moment his neshama, his Jewish soul, is within him, he gives thanks to God. This individual, Yehuda Becher, tragically was one of the Kedoshim, the holy Jews who were murdered on October 7th. You can watch him singing and Rabbi Manis Friedman’s comments here.

This beautiful Tefilla which we say every morning expresses basic tenets of our Jewish faith, that our pure soul which is given back to us each morning by our creator when we awaken, will one day return to its maker, and then once again be revived at the end of time with the techiyat hametim, the resurrection of the dead. Rabbi Benjamin Blech points out that this is a unique Jewish belief. We do not believe that Man is born with original sin. We affirm every single day that every Jew is born with a pure Jewish soul. Deep down we are all good and wish to connect with the Master of the Universe, the source of our divine spirit. You can read more here: https://aish.com/the-good-gene/

This is what we see in Yehuda Becher singing these words on that fateful morning and what we have seen in so many of our other Kedoshim who were murdered on that day and our soldiers who unfortunately continue to fall in the conflict that has followed.

And this is why the Torah devotes four plus parshiot to the work of the Mishkan, its conception and construction, more space than almost any other mitzvah in the Torah. 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, construction workers, and singers and the list goes on and on. It is through utilizing our creative passions that one discovers the godliness embedded in us. When we use our creativity for doing mitzvot, God will dwell not in a building, but in the hearts of each of us.

And this is a message that we can remember in our hearts and souls as we recite Elokai Neshama each morning. We all have a piece of the divine inside us. And we can use our passion and creativity to bring out this divine spark and light up this sometimes dark and dreary world. If we each build our personal sanctuary to the divine, God will dwell in us.

If you build it, He will come.

About the Author
Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky as the Director of Educational Technology at Yeshivat Frisch works closely with the faculty and students to integrate technology into every aspect of teaching and learning at Frisch. He is also an active blogger on topics related to the intersection of technology and Jewish education, and an avid user of social media. He has conducted workshops in educational technology throughout North America.
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