The Paradox of G-d’s House on Earth: A Torah Thought for Parashat Pekudai by Moshe Feiglin
The concept of a Temple, a physical place that humans build to serve as G-d’s dwelling place, as described in this week’s Torah portion, Pekudai, is paradoxical. In his speech at the dedication ceremony of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon touches upon this enigma:
“Then Solomon said, G-d said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.” (From this week’s Haftarah,
Kings I, 8:12)
In other words, first and foremost, I did not dream up this Temple on my own. G-d directed us to build it: “And they will make for Me a Temple and I will dwell within them.” This is the Divine directive that I fulfilled. The Holy Temple is not the place where the pagan idol worshipper “coerces” G-d, as it were, to descend to him. On the contrary: It is G-d Who has directed us to build Him a dwelling place, and we have merely fulfilled his directive.
While G-d indeed commanded us to build Him a home on earth, the question remains: “Will G-d really dwell on the earth, for the heavens and heaven of heavens cannot contain You, how much more so this house that I have built?” (Kings I, 8:27)
How can the infinite contain the finite?
“And may You hear the prayers of your servant and of your Nation, Israel, who will pray toward this place and You will hear in your dwelling place in heaven and You will hear and forgive.” (ibid 28)
Did Solomon answer the question? Not really. Perhaps what he is saying is that a human cannot really understand this connection between the physical and the meta-physical. It is G-d Who chose this physical place from which we can come close to Him and pray the most direct and effective prayers to Him. It is G-d Who chose to “touch” the world through this point on earth.
The Temple Mount and the Temple are like the brain in a human body. It is the place where body and soul meet; the physical and the meta-physical. No doctor can explain what takes place at the point of that encounter and apparently, no human can answer King Solomon’s question. But we do know that our return to the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the Temple, will, with G-d’s help, renew the entire world.