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Shekhina: the Divine Manifestation of God

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The Goddess Files: Enlightenment through Discover

Shekhina: the Divine Manifestation of God

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Shekhina (also Shekhinah or Shekina) means in Hebrew "Divine Manifestation," "Divine Presence," "Divine Power," "Glory," and "Grace." (Shekhina is a feminine word in Hebrew.) It is the Talmudic term for the visible and audible manifestation of Deity's presence on Earth. The Shekhina is considered so large that She overshadows the world (i.e., is transcendent), but so small She can dwell in the Temple and in each aspect of creation (i.e., is immanent). (2)

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Judaism is a monotheistic religion, strongly connected to a patriarchal God - Yahweh. It may surprise many people to discover that a goddess was associated with Judaism from its conception, and continued to play an important part, in various forms, to the present. The goddess is best known as Shekhina, a Talmudic term describing the manifestation of God's presence on earth. (1)

The word Shekhina, in Hebrew, is derived from the Biblical verb shakhan, meaning "the act of dwelling" but taking the feminine form. Therefore, at the beginning of the Talmudic era, the word Shekhina meant the aspect of God that dwelt among people and could be apprehended by the senses. For example, one Talmudic verse said: "Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell (ve'shakhanti) among them." However, in a later version, the translation said "Let them make Me a Sanctuary so that My Shekhina will dwell among them." In other words, a separate entity. (1)

Shekhina's presence was marked by the sound like the tinkling of a bell. (2)

Shekhina represented compassion in its purest form, and despite being, officially, the female side of God, she was visible and audible as a feminine entity in her own right. A beautiful being of light, whose most important function was to intercede with God on behalf of her children. (1)

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As the Jews migrated throughout Europe, sightings of the Shekhina occurred in every town Jews lived (ex: Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Russia).

She comforted the sick, the poor, the suffering, and had a particular concern for repentant sinners "These are accepted by the Shekhina as if they were righteous and pious persons who never sinned. They are carried aloft and seated next to the Shekhina...he whose heart is broken and whose spirit is low, and whose mouth rarely utters a word, the Shekhina walks with him every day...". (1)

By the 3rd century CE, the Shekhina was considered capable of opposing and influencing the Lord. Her compassionate nature compelled Her to argue with the Lord in defense of humanity. She was thought to have admonished the Lord not to practice retribution and to refrain from punishing Israel. (2)

A significant passage from the 11th century, describes Rabbi Akiva (a second century sage) saying: "When the Holy One, blessed be He, considered the deeds of the generation of Enoch and that they were spoiled and evil, He removed Himself and His Shekhina from their midst and ascended into the heights with blasts of trumpets..." (1)

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Ur-Nammu with Shekina (female spirit) offers libations to the Tree of Life
to both the Moon Goddess Ningal and the Moon God Nannar (Woolley 1954 pl 22). (4)

Like any good mother, she could punish too. When she behaved violently, her character came closer to her powerful aspect of the great Asherah, Yahweh's Canaanite Consort. She descended to Earth to punish Adam, Eve, and the Serpent when they sinned at the Garden of Eden.(1) She is believed to have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of its depravity, when not even one good person was found to dwell there. (2) She confused the builders of the Tower of Babel. She drowned the Egyptians at the Red Sea crossing during Exodus. When needed, she even killed righteous people. Since the beginning of time, six people -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam -- could not be taken by the Angel of Death because of their perfect purity. Someone had to bring their souls to Heaven, and only Shekhina could do that. By kissing them, she released their souls from bondage to this world. (1)

It is believed that She will descend to fight in the battle between good and evil at the end of time. (2)

The Shekhina is also thought to intervene at judgment after death. According to Midrash Mishle and Rabbi Hananel (died 1050 CE):

"When the Sanhedrin wanted to add King Solomon to ... [those] who had no share in the World to Come, Shekhina rose up before the Holy One, blessed be He, and said: 'Master of the World! Seest Thou a man diligent? They want to count him among mean men!' In that hour, a divine voice was heard saying to them: 'Let him [Solomon] stand before kings, let him not stand before mean men!'" (2)

The Kabbalah greatly elaborated on the theme of the feminine aspect of God. She would appear as the powerful Matronit, the controversial Lilith, and finally, as the glorious figure of Shabbat Hamalka - Queen, Bride of God, celebrated every Saturday by Jews all over the world as they light the Sabbath candles. And by tradition, the candles must always be lit by a woman.(1)

In the Kabbalistic doctrine of Deity, the feminine plays a significant role. The Kabbalah recognizes Shekhina to be the feminine aspect of Deity, just as the Lord is considered the masculine aspect. The most important work in the Kabbalistic movement was the Zohar (Book of Splendor), written circa 1286 CE by Moses de Leon. (2)

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(1) - http://www.pantheon.org/articles/s/shekhina.html
(2) - http://wheeloftheyear.com/reference/shekhina.htm
(3) - http://www.leonardnimoyphotography.com/
(4) - http://www.dhushara.com/book/orsin/origsin.htm
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