How big, according to Jewish tradition, is God? I imagine your inclination would be to spread your arms as wide as you are able and say something like, “so much bigger than this.” We express the idea of God’s enormity every time we say the kedushah: “M’lo khol ha-aretz k’vodo–God’s glory fills the entire land.”
Such enormity would seem to create a problem with this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, when God instructs Israel to build a mishkan, a sanctuary, for the purposes of…housing God? “Build Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). How can God be enclosed in such limited space, no matter how many square cubits the mishkan ends up being?
Jewish thinkers have grappled with this question, indeed the question of the size and expansiveness of God, for centuries. They made use of a philosophical term, tzimtzum, “contraction,” to describe how God made it work. But tzimtzum didn’t mean the same thing to all who used it. On Shabbat morning, we’ll see a couple examples of tzimtzum in Jewish thought, and how we might learn from God how to do tzimtzum. One fascinating example of it is happening in California, where one person has been able to make space for an unlikely companion. To find out more, join us on Shabbat morning!