Building holy community


Right at the beginning of this week’s Torah reading, which is all about building a structure in which the Israelites will worship God, God says something to Moses that seems to undermine the whole project.  “Have them make me a holy place,” says God, “and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).  We would expect that if the people create a dwelling place for God, then God will dwell in it, but God makes clear that the there is nothing divine about the structure they are building.  Instead, the fact that the people are gathering together and contributing their resources to create something holy is what makes it possible for God to dwell, not in a building — for what human structure could contain the divine? — but in the people themselves.  As human beings, our default is to ascribe importance to what is material, to structures, buildings, and objects that we hope might give meaning to our lives.  The Torah points us in a different direction.  Material objects might be markers on our journey toward holiness, but true sacred space is only created by connecting with other people, heart to heart and soul to soul, to create a holy community of vessels in which God’s presence can dwell.