Of course G‑d is everywhere, who could keep Him out? The more pertinent question is where does G‑d dwell; where does He make Himself "at home," knowable and visible?

And perhaps the question most germane to us: Is it up to us where He dwells?

"They shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them,"1 G‑d's command to the Israelites to construct the Tabernacle, is the outline of G‑d's purpose in creation; to make G‑d's presence evident in this world—precisely because of its tendency towards pettiness and crass materiality.

The question most germane to us: Is it up to us where He dwells?Who is eligible and responsible for its execution?

The context of this command clues us into the opportunity it presents.

Rashi, the primary commentary on Torah, makes a radical departure from the straight-up reading of the text. He alters the scriptural order and places this command – and in fact the whole description and implementation of the centralized "location and structure" for G‑d's presence – after the story of the Golden Calf, which the Torah records seven chapters later!2

The Zohar places the commandment to create a Sanctuary and the Jewish people's donation of the materials used for its construction prior to the Golden Calf affair. (That's why the Calf was made from personal jewelry; all the gold they took from Egypt had already been donated to the Sanctuary project.)3

Finally, Nachmanides, another primary, narrative-focused biblical commentator, maintains the literal timeline recorded in the Torah: the Golden Calf incident occurred smack in between the commandment to create a Sanctuary and the Jewish people's compliance.4

These three versions focus on the same question: can I, must I, personally implement G‑d's plan, or can only special people do that? And, in that classically "no excuses" Jewish way, you're right and you're right and you're right too. Each perspective adds to the understanding of who causes G‑d to "dwell amongst us," despite some seemingly legitimate arguments that might excuse some.

Rashi places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the penitent—the collective state of the nation following the Golden Calf debacle. Rather than shame and cowering, the sincere penitent has a distinct ability and obligation to complete his return by making the world welcoming to G‑d.

There are no ivory towers in Torah where the righteous can spend his time polishing his soulThe Zohar includes an additional wrinkle. The tzaddik, the wholly righteous one whose days are filled with prayer and acts of kindness, he too has the obligation to venture out into the cold darkness of the world to make G‑d His personal dwelling place. There are no ivory towers in Torah, no secret hideaways where the righteous can spend his time polishing his soul. He must emerge from under his tallit to make the world outside the study hall welcoming of G‑d. That's why the command to collect contributions for the Tabernacle, as well as the consecration of all the materials that were used to create G‑d's home, transpired before the Israelites sinned—while they were yet tzaddikim.

And Nachmanides says, "you, too, the (still) imperfect one." Don't make G‑d wait until you have figured it all out; there is work to be done —your dirty fingernails and "what have you done for me lately disloyalty" not withstanding. You don't have to be a tzaddik or have achieved perfect penitence for your failings; wherever we are and whoever we are, we all must make G‑d His place in this world. This is why the command to create a sanctuary for G‑d was in full effect even while the Israelites were dancing and reveling around the Golden Calf!

We all have our proudest moments, when we are aligned with G‑d and holiness. Nachmanides warns us against savoring those moments in privacy, and pushes us out of self-absorbed spiritual pride and into the world. When we fall in the mud (or deliberately jump in while dressed in our new suit, despite Mom's warning us not to), the Zohar says we still have obligations to G‑d, even before we have fixed our mistakes. And when we express earnest remorse and desire to fix what we broke, Rashi tells us not to shy away from going back into the world, the scene of the crime, and this time to make it a home for G‑d.

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.