Shekinah: The Presence of Divinity
by Rev. Mark Raines
Shekinah – also spelled Shekhina, Shekhinah, Shekina, and Shechina – is known in the Qabalah, an ancient form of Jewish mysticism, as one of the emanations of God and the actual Presence of God. The belief was that one could not see God in Its fullness, but could see the emanation of God, Shekinah. When Moses asked to see God, it was Shekinah that he saw. Shekinah is also the consort, or Bride, of God. As such, she is Mother to us all, just as God is our Father.
In earlier times, God was seen as either dwelling in the clouds or in high places like mountains or very high hills. With the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, and then the construction of the Temple, a part of the Godhead came to dwell in the Ark and then in the Temple. This could not be the male God, the God of the Sky and of High Places. So Shekinah, formerly known as Asherah, a Goddess of Earth and Sea, came to dwell in the Ark of the Covenant and then in the Temple.
Originally it was Asherah who dwelled in the Temple as the Bride of God, His representative there. But after the “reforms” of King Josiah, Asherah worship was forbidden in the Temple. Still, the Jews knew that their Lady was still living there as their Queen and the representative of El, their God. So Asherah evolved. She began to be seen as the presence of God, and less as a separate entity. She became Shekinah, which means something like She who dwells (from the Hebrew shakhan, which means the act of dwelling). However, Asherah did not really change. She was always the representative of Her Husband, just as He was always HER representative. She, an Earth Goddess, was also Queen of Heaven. He, as Sky God, was also Ruler of Earth. This occurred only through Their marriage. So, it was not really that Asherah worship ever changed much within Judaism, or that Asherah Herself changed; only, it was made to look like it had changed to fool the patriarchal priests.
Unfortunately, Shekinah has been all but lost to Christianity. Elements of Her remain in Mother Mary, who was perhaps Shekinah’s incarnation. Mary Theotokos, as She is called, actually held the presence of God (Yeshua) within Her. She is known as the Queen of Heaven, but she is the representative of God to us and delivers our prayers to Him, according to Catholic tradition. Her apparitions are much more frequent than the apparitions of Yeshua, and the Father never appears. It seems that She is truly His representative to us, because (as we know) She is His Bride.
The union of Shekinah and El was never more evident than in the Sabbath. She is known as the Sabbath Bride, or the Sabbath Queen. Each week on the Sabbath, God and Goddess, El and Shekinah, act out the Song of Songs. One rabbi called that holy book the “Holy of Holies” of the Bible! Now take a look at this passage from the Zohar (the holy book of the Qabalah), called the Secret of the Sabbath, which tells us all about the Sabbath Queen:
THE SECRET OF SABBATH
The Secret of Sabbath:
She is Sabbath!
United in the secret of One
to draw down upon Her
the secret of One.
The prayer for the entrance of Sabbath:
The holy Throne of Glory is united in the secret of One,
prepared for the High Holy King to rest upon Her.
When Sabbath enters She is alone,
separated from the Other Side,
all judgments removed from Her.
Basking in the oneness of holy light,
She is crowned over and over to face the Holy King.
All powers of wrath and masters of judgment flee from Her.
Her face shines with a light from beyond;
She is crowned below by the holy people,
and all of them are crowned with new souls.
Then the beginning of prayer to bless Her with joy and beaming faces:
Barekbu ET YHVH ha-Mevorakh,
“Bless ET YHVH, the-Blessed One,”
ET YHVH, blessing Her first.
(*ET-YHVH is another name for ‘Shekinah’ (the feminine Divine Presence). In the Kabbalah, ET stands for Aleph to Tav, like our Alpha to Omega, or A to Z. Here ET refers to the song itself as the ultimate speech, hymn or prayer. According to the notes of Daniel Chanan Matt’s translation, this passage from the ZOHAR is recited in the Sephardic liturgy on Sabbath Eve.)
1. Shekhina, from Encyclopedia Mythica
2. Wisdom of Shekinah, by WOW Institute (no longer on line)
3. The Secret of Sabbath From the Zohar, ancient Kabbalistic inspired writings — zohar.com. Daniel Chanan Matt also uses this verse in his book Zohar, the Book of Enlightenment