Parashat Pekudei 5784 “Building Ourselves”

Posted on March 14, 2024

By Rabbi ALex Freedman.


“If you build it, he will come.”  The famous line from the movie Field of Dreams means that if Ray builds a baseball field, his father will return.

“If you build it, He will come.”  Rabbi Moshe Grussgott of Manhattan points out that this paraphrases an important verse from the Torah reading in Parashat Terumah, which kicks off the construction of the Mishkan, the desert portable sanctuary.  If you (the Jews) build it (the Mishkan – portable sanctuary), He (G-d) will come (and dwell among you).  This is a pretty accurate summary of Exodus 25:8: “Let them make me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them.”

Nearly the entire duration of the book of Exodus (Ch. 25-40) is devoted to the Mishkan’s construction, which concludes this week with Pekudei. Why the extensive coverage about the same topic?   

– First, details matter.  Everyone wants an HD television, the more pixels the better.  That picture is more highly detailed than standard definition, and the results speak for themselves.  If we want our TV’s in HD, shouldn’t we insist that important projects and relationships be lived in HD too?

– Second, G-d is most present when people give or build.  Avot DRabbi Natan makes this conclusion based upon a close reading of our verse: When they make me a sanctuary, I will dwell among them.  When people involve themselves in a cause or project, they gain a sense of meaning and purpose, a feeling of being part of something larger than themselves.  Some people call this feeling “G-d.”

-Third, building something refines us.  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks notes that the only time in the Torah when the Jews did not complain about something was during the construction of the Mishkan.  For the first time, they had to provide for themselves, not rely on G-d.  And they emerged stronger for it.  He writes: “It is not what God does for us that transforms us. It is what we do for God.”

What are you building?