Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shekhina is Hebrew for the female manifestation of God. Some say that when the escapees follows a pillar of fire to get across the desert that was Shekhina.

Shekhina was much talked of by the Hebrew mystics in Hasidism as they lived their intense spiritual lives in a gender-segregated society. I mean, they were married, but men and women lived much of their lives seperately. When men had been studying spiritual things a long time, like when they were fifty, they were considered safe enough to study shekhina.

Reading through Kings 1 and 2, two books in the Hebrew Bible, you'll come across lists of kings, king after king. It can seem a bit non-fascinating, just to look at. It gets more interesting when you notice that it says that a certain king completely ended worship of gods other than the one, true, guy god. Then read on and it says another kind completely wiped out non-guy god worship. Then yet another king wiped it out later.

They wiped it out, but they kept having to wipe it out again.

Usually in the Hebrew Bible, the bad god to worship is called Baal. Feminists point out that this in itself is a cover-up. Baal wasn't a main god. He was a consort for a main god, Asarte. So when they say again and again that Baal was no longer worshipped they meant Asarte was no longer worshiped, without even mentioning her name.

There's a way of reading the Hebrew body where it looks like a lively and sometimes violent dialogue about either worshiping one god, a male, or a group of god, the main of them a female.

It looks like the fight went on and on. The male god winners wrote the story, but traces of the dialogue remain, especially once you understand that the much mentioned and castigated Baal was the consort of the main, almost unnamed, female god.

Then, hundreds of years later, older Jewish men on the mystical fringe were allowed to start learning about Shekinah.