Can human beings really build a House for G‑d? King Solomon himself questioned this when he built the very first Holy Temple in Jerusalem. “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this house I have built!”1

And yet, the Almighty Himself instructs us to do just that: “And they shall make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell among them.”2 How are we to understand that the Infinite Creator can be contained in a physical house built by finite men and women?

Let’s do what Jews have always done and answer this question with another one.

Why is the Sanctuary described in this week’s reading so small? One would imagine that the very first House of G‑d would have been spectacular. Yes, it was a portable temple which needed to be erected and dismantled regularly over 40 years in the wilderness, but still. It was smaller than a starter home! A roof of animal skins, held together with bolts and nuts, hooks, pegs and sockets. And while it was, admittedly, covered in gold, it was a far cry from the magnificent palaces and citadels of others.

The moral of the story? G‑d does not require spectacular spires or museums to house His holy presence. Where is He found? In the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of a simple synagogue.

Back in 1983, I was the founding rabbi of the Torah Academy Shul in Johannesburg. The school had purchased a large tract of land which had previously housed a Catholic institution and our new synagogue was going to be situated in what was previously the chapel. Many of my congregants asked whether we needed to do any particular ceremony before we could move in.

At the time, Rabbi Betzalel Zolty, a respected halachic authority and former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem was visiting our community, so I put the question to him. “Do we need to do anything special to convert the chapel into a shul?”

His sharp and simple reply? “Make a minyan!”

A minyan, a quorum of Jews praying together, is all that was needed to inaugurate and consecrate our synagogue.

And that is exactly how we invite G‑d into our synagogues and make Him feel welcome. Sometimes we think we must conquer the cosmos to bring heaven down to earth, but all we need to do is make a simple minyan.

You don’t have to solve the Middle-East crisis, but you can say a prayer for Israel. You don’t need to become a rabbi, but you could attend a weekly Torah class. You needn’t give away billions like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, but you can give a little more tzedakah than feels comfortable. And you’re not expected to settle every family feud, but you could smile at your difficult brother-in-law once in a while.

The Alter Rebbe, founder of Chabad chassidism, once said:

Avodah—true service of G‑d—does not imply, as some think, altogether erroneously, that one must pulverize mountains and shatter boulders, or turn the whole world upside down.


The absolute truth is that any act is perfectly satisfactory when performed with authenticity and true intent. A blessing pronounced with concentration, a word of prayer as it should be with awareness of “before Whom you stand,” a passage in Chumash while being aware that it is the word of G‑d, a verse of Psalms, an act of kindness and compassion expressed in befriending another person with love and affection.

It is precisely the small things that build the Sanctuary of G‑d and bring heaven down to earth. G‑d is not looking for grandeur or opulence, but the ordinary acts of sanctity and spirituality, goodness and kindness that make our world a better, more G‑dly place—a holy house where He feels most comfortable.

Let us make Him our own little sanctuaries and He will dwell among us.