The inside game

BY RABBI JAMES STONE GOODMAN

Build for me a Mikdash [KDSh]

And I will dwell [ShKhN]

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Within them. — Exodus 25:8

Two roots are in that verse — one signifying outwardliness [KDSh] and one signifying inwardliness [ShKhN]. The terrible twos are integrated in our holy place in this the first objectification of the spirit. Why do we need a place for our prayers? My teacher asked. Don’t be deceived, he answered, into thinking it’s about place. It’s always about heart. Build me a Mikdash, but I will dwell within them, not within it.

We usually read the root of the word Terumah, out of which we will build the sanctuary, as a root signifying “lift.” If we build it, we will be lifted by the building. But the Zohar reads the word out of an Aramaic root signifying “two.” That changes everything.

All the terrible twos will be integrated in our holy place. I always imagine inner and outer rather than upper and lower, or masculine and feminine. God said, build it and I will dwell within them. The work of the holy place is inner work. In the inner space, in the heart, that’s where integration happens, that’s where the terrible twos are one. Within them — I will come to rest, reads the verse. The game of the spirit is always an inside job.

I asked Bezalel to draw it for me. He drew a blueprint of the architecture, and it looked like the diagrams I have seen of the human heart.

Build your outer walls, make them nice, but I will settle in the inner chambers. The game of soul, God says at the beginning of the exercise, is the game of heart. I want your heart.

The spirit game is inner and outer, make room for Me in your inner chambers.

Give Me space, not to build another wing, but to grow another heart.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman serves Congregation Neve Shalom and is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.