The Infinite within the Finite

Moshe Kempinski

The Torah portion of Terumah makes the following declaration: “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell within them.” (Exodus 25:8).

The concept that the Infinite can relate and dwell within finite space is one of the seemingly impossible concepts that form the basis of classical “Torah understanding”. We see hints about that concept described after the dramatic involvement of The Infinite G-d in the very finite splitting of the red sea;

You shall bring them and plant them on the mount of Your heritage, directed toward Your habitation, which You made, O Lord; the sanctuary, O Lord, [which] Your hands founded.( Exodus 15:17)

The words ” Your Habitation” needs to be understood.

Furthermore King David who was not given permission to construct the final abode for G-d’s presence cries out
“I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids, Until I find a place( Makom) for Hashem, A dwelling place( Miskenot) for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Psalm 132:4-5)

Again we are struck by the words ” A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

This question is best raised after King Solomon succeeds in building a “House for G-d”;

“But will G-d indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You; much less this temple that I have erected.” (I Kings 8:27)

The Abarbanel asks the question in the following way

“Why did G-d command us regarding the building of the tabernacle if he were a finite corporeal being limited in space when the exact opposite is true? For He is not corporeal, nor a material force, so how did they ascribe to Him a place. Did not G-d say of Himself, ‘The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you would build for me? and where is the place of my rest?'” (Isaiah 66:1).

To understand this we must begin by being reminded of an earlier encounter between two men
We read of Avraham’s encounter with Malchizedk , king of Salem after Avraham’s victory over the kings of the region.
And Malchizedek the king of Salem brought out bread and wine, and he was a priest to the Most High G-d. And he blessed him, and he said, “Blessed be Avram to the Most High G-d, Who Possesses Heaven and Earth ” ( Genesis 14:18)

Avraham knew that G-d was not simply relegated to the higher realms of spirituality (the Most High) but was involved in uniting Heaven and Earth. G-d was not to be experienced only as “ the Transcendent One” . He was not simply the All High G-d we would try to connect to by separating from the confines of our physicality. G-d was also the “Possessor of heaven and earth” anticipating relationship with His creation. He was, is and will be very much Imminent, very much in constant relationship with His creation.

That was the point of the Tabernacle.

The Divine request to create such a finite and limited tabernacle was to be the affirmation of G-d’s Immanence. Hashem is not only above time and space, He is within it as well. He can be encountered in the most palpable of ways within a tent or edifice built for His name and for His purpose.

“make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell within them.” (Exodus 25:8)

Yet we are left wondering how such a seemingly impossible task can be achieved. How can the Infinite be harnessed or “drawn into” (Tzimtzum) within the confines of finite creation.
The Torah tells us the following;

And Hashem spoke unto Moshe, saying: ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart makes him willing , you shall take My offering.’” (Exodus 25:1-2)
This can be read in the following way

‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering of every man whose heart makes him willing ‘
Once you have taken an offering from the heart of such a man or woman then you shall take the following offering.” And this is the offering that you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper;..etc( Exodus 25:3)

The sanctuary can only be created out of the desire to give of oneself. It can only be created by those who are ready to let go of part of themselves. It can only come into existence when we let go of our need to control all that is around us and give some of our heart back to the creator.

In the famous words of The Rebbe of Kotzk when asked where does G-d live. He answered “Vu Men Lust Im Arayn” Where he is ‘invited’ in”. If you make room emotionally and spiritually for His Presence, Hashem will fill that space.

Mankind has the tendency of filling himself up with things of the ego and of selfish desire. There is usually no room left in the satiated ego of such an individual for anything of the spirit or of the Divine. That is the reason the sanctuary must be built by people who have made room in their souls for things other than themselves. It is into that vacuum that G-d’s Presence enters and then can also truly “dwell within them.”

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

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