Updated: Sep 4, 2018
Christian Mother of God and Jewish God the Mother: Two Side of the Same Religious Gynocentric Coin!
An ecerpt from "On the Origions of European Gynocentrism and its Symbolism"
In the Jewish mystic tradition, both the earlier but especially, the Kabalsitic one that arose in Spain and France from the 12th and 13th century, the transcendental God is androgynous. The emanation of God – the 10 Sephirot which resembles the tree of life– into the world is overwhelmingly female by its characteristics and attributes! Moreover, his real presence in the actual world is entirely female and is understood as Schechina, a concept we are going to elaborate now especially as in regard and by association to the Christian concept of virgin marry that was an important aspect in the troubadour poetry as well as European gynocentrism. Thus although God in the lower (the non-transcendental realm) is presented as male figure he first of all is not in equal status with its transcendental androgynous nature and second he bears a complete gynocentric and in fact almost a feminist image of a male hence most of his attributes are female one as well as his entire presence in the world. This is the basic gynocentric manipulation in religions and how men are sold this delusion. In fact, it is completely in sync with the way it is done in the very life itself.
Moreover, mystical Judaism has much to say about the feminine face of God, called Shekhinah. She grew out of the Hebrew Bible (which Christians call the Old Testament) and out of later Jewish experience and imagination, just like Mary, the Mother of God, grew out of the Bible and Christian experience and imagination. Many parallels can be drawn, some of whom we'll be discussing now. The Shekhina(h) (also spelled Shekina(h), Schechina(h), or Shechina(h)) (Biblical Hebrew: שכינה) is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling" or "settling" and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God. This term does not occur in the Bible, and is from rabbinic literature. Shekhinah is derived from the Hebrew verb שכן. The Semitic root means "to settle, inhabit, or dwell". This abstract noun is not present in the Bible, and is first encountered in the rabbinic literature. The root word is often used to refer to birds' nesting and nests. ("Every fowl dwells near its kind and man near his equal.") and can also mean "neighbor" ("If two Tobiahs appeared, one of whom was a neighbour and the other a scholar, the scholar is to be given precedence".)
The word for the Tabernacle, mishkan, is a derivative of the same root and is used in the sense of dwelling-place in the Bible, e.g. Psalms 132:5 ("till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.") and Numbers 24:5 ("How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel!" where the word for "your dwelling places" is mishkenotecha). Accordingly, in classic Jewish thought, the Shekhinah refers to a dwelling or settling in a special sense, a dwelling or settling of divine presence, to the effect that, while in proximity to the Shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable. The concept is similar to that in the Gospel of Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in their midst." Some Christian theologians have connected the concept of Shekhinah to the Greek term Parousia "presence" or "arrival," which is used in the New Testament in a similar way for "divine presence".
Meaning in Judaism
Being true to its gynocentric heritage, especially the troubadour Cathar one, since the second wave of Jewish feminism Shekhinah has become was seen by feminists as a goddess it her own right. However, originally while still depicting a gynocentric male image (of some sort of feminist God) Shekhinah represented in fact the feminine attributes of the presence of God which came additionally to his attributes of emanation which are overwhelmingly female too. (both Shekhinah and most of the 10 Sephirot being feminine words in Hebrew, based especially on readings of the Talmud).
The Shekhinah is referred to as manifest in the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem throughout Rabbinic literature. It is also reported as being present in the acts of public prayer. In the Mishna the noun is used twice: once by Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradion (c. 135 CE): 'If two sit together and the words between them are of the Torah, then the Shekhinah is in their midst'; and Rabbi Halafta ben Dosa: 'If ten men sit together and occupy themselves with the Law, the Shekhinah rests among them". So too in the Talmud Sanhedrin 39a, we read: "Whenever ten are gathered for prayer, there the Shekhinah rests"; it also connotes righteous judgment ("when three sit as judges, the Shekhinah is with them." Talmud tractate Berachot 6a), and personal need ("The Shekhinah dwells over the headside of the sick man's bed." Talmud tractate Shabbat 12b; "Wheresoever they were exiled, the Shekhinah went with them." Talmud tractate Megillah 29a). Hence, it is not the mere manifestation that is at play here but in fact all of life, especially the formal power of men, is ruled by this great female cosmic energy. However, it does not stay just as cosmic presence as women are also the ones who formalize informal power and are the ones who are in charge of all domestic affairs. In the proverbs we read:
Proverbs 31:10-31 King James Version (KJV)
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
As we can see, in particular, the shekhinah is a holy fire that resides within the home of a married couple. It is not actually such fire but the energy that rules each and every aspect of it. The shekhinah is the highest of six types of holy fire. When a married couple is worthy of this manifestation, all other types of fire are consumed by it.
Jewish Sources: Usage!
There is no occurrence of the word in pre-rabbinic literature such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is only afterwards in the targums and rabbinic literature that the Hebrew term shekhinah, or Aramaic equivalent shekinta, is found, and then becomes extremely common.[need quotation to verify] McNamara considers that the absence might lead to the conclusion that the term only originated after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, but notes 2 Maccabees 14:35 "a temple for your habitation", where the Greek text (naon tes skenoseos) suggests a possible parallel understanding, and where the Greek noun skenosis may stand for Aramaic shekinta: The Shekhinah is associated with the transformational spirit of God regarded as the source of prophecy:
"After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines; and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a timbrel, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they will be prophesying. And the spirit of the LORD will come mightily upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man".
The prophets made numerous references to visions of the presence of God, particularly in the context of the Tabernacle or Temple, with figures such as thrones or robes filling the Sanctuary, which have traditionally been attributed to the presence of the Shekhinah. Isaiah wrote "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the Temple." (Isaiah 6:1). Jeremiah implored "Do not dishonor the throne of your glory" (Jeremiah 14:21) and referred to "Thy throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thy place of our sanctuary" (Jeremiah 17:12). The Book of Ezekiel speaks of "the glory of the God of Israel was there [in the Sanctuary], according to the vision that I saw in the plain." (Ezekiel 8:4)
In the Targum the addition of the noun term Shekhinah paraphases Hebrew verb phrases such as Exodus 34:9 "let the Lord go among us" (a verbal expression of presence) which Targum paraphrases with God's "shekhinah" (a noun form). In the post-temple era usage of the term Shekhinah may provide a solution to the problem of God being omnipresent and thus not dwelling in any one place.
The Talmud also says that "the Shekhinah rests on man neither through gloom, nor through sloth, nor through frivolity, nor through levity, nor through talk, nor through idle chatter, but only through a matter of joy in connection with a precept, as it is said, But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him (II Kings 3:15)". (Tractate Shabbat 30b)
The 17th blessing of the daily Amidah prayer said in Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform services is "[Blessed are You, God,] who returns His Presence (shekhinato) to Zion" (הַמַּחֲזִיר שְׁכִינָתוֹ לְצִיּוֹן) as can be seen in any siddur (Jewish daily prayer book). Liberal Jewish prayer-book for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Machzor Ruach Chadashah) contains a creative prayer based on Avinu Malkeinu, in which the feminine noun Shekhinah is used in the interests of gender neutrality.
The theme of the Shekhinah as the Sabbath Bride recurs in the writings and songs of 16th century Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria. The "Asader Bishvachin" song, written in Aramaic by Luria (his name appears as an acrostic of each line) and sung at the evening meal of Shabbat is an example of this. The song appears in particular in many siddurs in the section following Friday night prayers and in some Shabbat song books:"
"Let us invite the Shechinah with a newly-laid table and with a well-lit menorah that casts light on all heads".
Three preceding days to the right, three succeeding days to the left, and amid them the Sabbath bride with adornments she goes, vessels and robes
May the Shechinah become a crown through the six loaves on each side through the doubled-six may our table be bound with the profound Temple services"
A paragraph in the Zohar starts: "One must prepare a comfortable seat with several cushions and embroidered covers, from all that is found in the house, like one who prepares a canopy for a bride. For the Shabbat is a queen and a bride. This is why the masters of the Mishna used to go out on the eve of Shabbat to receive her on the road, and used to say: 'Come, O bride, come, O bride!' And one must sing and rejoice at the table in her honor ... one must receive the Lady with many lighted candles, many enjoyments, beautiful clothes, and a house embellished with many fine appointments ..."
The tradition of the Shekhinah as the Shabbat Bride, the Shabbat Kallah, continues in Judaism to this very day.
The concept of Holy Spirit in Judaism
The concept of Shekhinah is also associated with the concept of the Holy Spirit in Jewish tradition (ruach ha-kodesh), as can be seen in the Yiddish song: "Vel ich, sh'chine tsu dir kummen "Will I, Shekhinah, to you come".
Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism: the divine feminine!
Kabbalah associates the Shekhinah with the female. According to Gershom Scholem, "The introduction of this idea was one of the most important and lasting innovations of Kabbalah....no other element of Kabbaliah won such a degree of popular approval. The "feminine Jewish divine presence, the Shekhinah, distinguishes Kabbalistic literature from earlier Jewish literature." From the point of view of behavioral philology this is extremely important as it mirrors the general attitude of Mosarabic Spain as well as Cathar troubadour French culture putting women and femininity on a pedestal in the greater context of Eleanor of Aquitaine's gynocentrism. "In the imagery of the Kabbalah", continues Scholem, the shekhinah is the most overtly female sefirah, the last of the ten sefirot, referred to imaginatively as 'the daughter of God' (although it is not exactly correct as the last Sefirah is Malckhut). The harmonious relationship between the female shekhinah and the six sefirot which precede her causes the world itself to be sustained by the flow of divine energy", he writes. "She is like the moon reflecting the divine light into the world."
As we have seen, Shekhinah, means 'indwelling in the world', God's immanence. A branch of Jewish mystics, the Kabbalists, took this immanence, Lady Wisdom, and the Holy Spirit, and crafted from them God the Mother, the bride of the Father. She is the totality of divine speech - the Word, if you will. She is his bride in heaven, but also on earth, for she tied herself to the people, whom God chose to wed. As Christ in Christianity is God become human, so she too became human like us in order that God might be close to his children and lead us back home. God the Mother loved her children so much, that she left God the Father in heaven and descended to be with her kids, following them into exile. In fact, this is very similar, just another version of the Cathar-Bogomil creation myth where the first human being coming to earth was a female and with the aim to spread love and to appease the (the male forces) of evil (who created the world) People saw her roaming the communities of her exiled refugee children at night, wearing black and moaning loudly in pain. She cries over her children's suffering, over the sin of humanity which made her leave the embrace of her bridegroom, and over her separation from him.
The image reminds us a lot of the mater dolorosa, sorrowful mother Mary, crying not only for her son Jesus, but for all her children, her heart pierced with seven sorrows. Shekhinah leaving her heavenly abode to be with her children in exile also is reminiscent of Jesus in Christianity "Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness;" (Philippians 2:6-7). According to Kabbalah, no one can come to God except through Shekhinah. She is to Kabbalists what Jesus is to Christians and what Mary is to her devotees. The Zohar, the major classic of Kabbalist literature, says: "Shekhinah is the opening to the Divine: 'One who enters must enter through this gate'."(*1) Sounds a lot like Jesus in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except by me." But Mary too is called the Gate of Heaven. The kabbalistic persona of Shekhinah developed over the centuries. Once she had taken on human form, she gradually came to represent all aspects of the feminine: the faithful wife, the nurturing mother, the sensual lover, sister the understanding and supporting sister and the bride and the divine refugee. In fact, it is the depiction of the anatomy of female power that rules man's life from birth to earth:
1. Mother power
2. Bride Power
3. Wife power
4. Devine Cosmic Power
This is the main difference between the Jewish God the Mother and the Christian Mother of God: Shekhinah has all attribute to her, the divine as well as the earthly, the sexual and a-sexual aspect, that are lacking almost entirely in the Christian virgin Mary thus she is more realistic. Since a wife and mother was seen as an earthly representative of Shekhinah, Kabbalists were encouraged to have "kosher sex" for instance. By uniting the feminine and the masculine in a pure way, here on earth, they were also helping God the Father and Mother reunite in heaven. Pure sex was to be joyful, but chaste. In fact, it is interesting to mention that the Cathar Troubadour culture was more in synch with the Jewish though on the matter while implementing this idea into Christianity by still withholding the sexual aspect away from the virgin marry but integrating and combining it together with romantic and courtly love. It is the essence of female preeminence which was sold under the false pretense and the myth of male power and patriarchy which in fact never existed