Build It

Build for me a Mikdash [KDSh]
And I will dwell [ShKhN]
Within them. Exodus 25:8

Two roots 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 at all 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.

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 [TRY] signifying “two.” That changes everything.

All the terrible twos will be integrated in our holy place. 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 want you heart, God said, I’m after your soul.

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.


O holy Shabbes Mishpatim
Maqam Saba
D E half-flat F G flat

A maqam is a musical figure.
Each Shabbat is associated with a particular maqam in Arabic,
cognate to the Hebrew Maqom,
signifying place.

The Philosopher Avicenna (d. 1037)
Identified 12 principal modes
Or maqamat
Singular maqam
From “place” (Arabic) Hebrew cognate Maqom.

Ethical and cosmological implications
Signs of zodiac
Times of day and night
Poetic meter
Healings and treatments,

Each week a musical figure —
a mood


The last line
And Moses came into the cloud
and went up the mountain
and Moses was up on the mountain
forty days and forty nights. [Ex.24:18]

We want to know
what happened up the mountain?
What did he see?
Moses ascends
wearing the garment of colors
draped over his shoulders by the rainbow,

he saw what he saw
he enjoyed it —
up to that place. [Zohar]

What place.

What place is it where language meets its
beyond which
the most that can be said
about something
is nothing.

It’s like this
and like this
like this
— an old man like me
doesn’t offer a single version
a word rattling around in an empty bottle –

first: the obvious
then the less obvious
then the secret
to arrive where we began
the plain sense
the surfaces having released their opacity —


We know this
every now and again
don’t we?

jsg, usa

Saba, from Arabic signifying baby boy,
Maqam Saba is used for Brit/covenant
All covenants.

Yitro B-side

O Yitro

We listened to Yitro
Yitro listened to us.

Moses stuttered
Yitro [Jethro] spoke another language entirely
Yitro began by listening
he had heard all that happened
— God and Israel and Egypt
Yitro listened to the whole story
and it moved him.

He brought Tzipporah
the wife of Moses and their two sons
to Israel’s camp.

When did he come? [Talmud, Zevachim 116a]
Did he come after he heard about the attack of Amalek
did he come when he heard about the splitting off the Sea
did he come when he heard about the Ten Commandments?

Did he come because of the opposition
did he come because of miracles
did he come because of wisdom —

he knew why he came.

Thus is the giving of the Torah in this parashah
yet the portion is entitled Yitro,

as if we could not receive the holy Torah
until Yitro had joined us [Zohar]

with all his ambiguity

jsg, usa