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From: Root & Branch Association, Ltd
Subject: THE REVELATION OF THE SHECHINAH
(DIVINE PRESENCE)/PART ONE by Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen
Divine Presence/Commentary: THE REVELATION OF THE SHECHINAH (DIVINE
by Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen
YERUSHALIYIM, D.C. (David's Capital), Yom Shlishi (Third Day -- "Tuesday"),
24 Nisan, 5761 (Gregorian Date: April 17, 2001)
Root & Branch: Our tradition teaches that at the dawn of the Messianic Age, when the People of Israel return to their Covenant with HaShem -- the Compassionate One -- they will experience open miracles just as they did when they were redeemed from Egypt, as it is written:
"As in the days when you left the land of Egypt, I will show him (Israel) wonders. The nations will see and be ashamed of all their power". [Micah 7:15-16].
The commentators explain that at the beginning of this new age, we will once again experience open miracles just like we did when we were redeemed from the oppression and slavery of Egypt. The Divine power will be revealed to all the nations, as the Compassionate One will openly intervene on behalf of the People of Israel, who will be in great danger just before the coming of the Messiah.
For example, the Prophet Zechariah (chapter 14) describes how at the dawn of the Messianic Age, the nations will gather to make war against the newly established Jewish community in Jerusalem. The people will be in great danger, says the Prophet, but they will experience deliverance through great miracles.
The open intervention of the Compassionate One in human history is known in Jewish tradition as "the revelation of the Shechinah". This idea is expressed in the following passage from the Passover Hagaddah:
"(It is written): 'HaShem brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awesome power, and with signs and with wonders' [Devarim/Deuteronomy 26:8]. "With awesome power" -- this alludes to the revelation of the Shechinah". [Passover Haggadah and the Sifri to Deut.26:8]
The commentators on the Haggadah point out that through the miraculous ten plagues and the splitting of the sea, the power of the Shechinah was revealed to the world. This idea is also expressed in the following statement of Moshe to the people when they arrived at the sea and discovered that the Egyptian army was pursuing them:
"HaShem shall do battle for you, and you shall remain silent". [Shemot/Exodus 14:14]
The ancient midrashic translation and commentary known as "Targum Yerushalmi" interprets this verse in the following manner:
"Do not be afraid, for HaShem -- through the glory of His Shechinah -- will cause you to have victory in your battles".
The Compassionate One will fight for Israel through His Shechinah!
The Shechinah is associated with awesome power. The Shechinah even battles on behalf of Israel. How are we to understand this connection?
The Shechinah represents those attributes of the Divine that we understand as "feminine". At first, it may seem difficult to understand how this "feminine" side of the Creator should be associated with "might" and "war". However, if we consider the nature of the female among various species of living creatures and how the female reacts when her young are in danger, we may gain some insight into the nature of the Shechinah.
For example, I was once taught that the most dangerous animal in the world is a mother bear defending her young. She intensely cares for her young over a long period, and her love and concern for them is therefore very powerful. In general, the female of various species of living creatures has awesome power and an amazing ability to fight for the life that comes from her womb.
The physical world is a reflection of the spiritual world. We can begin to understand that the Shechinah -- the "feminine" aspect of the Compassionate One -- has awesome power to use on behalf of Her "children". In fact, there are verses in our Holy Scriptures which compare the Compassionate One's relationship to Israel to the relationship of a mother to her child.
For example, in the Book of Isaiah, the Compassionate One proclaims to Israel:
"Like a person whose mother comforts him, so will I comfort you, and in Jerusalem you will be comforted". [Yeshiyahu/Isaiah 66:13]
The following dialogue between the Compassionate One and Israel can serve as another example:
"And Zion said, "HaShem has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me'". [Yeshiyahu/Isaiah 49:14]
The noted 12th century biblical commentator, Ibn Ezra, explains that "Zion" in this verse is a poetic reference to the Community of Israel. According to the midrashic commentary "Targum Yonasan", the Community of Israel is lamenting: "The Shechinah has left me; HaShem is distant from me".
What is the Divine response to the Community of Israel?
The Compassionate One answers:
"Can a woman forget her baby, or not feel compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, but I would not forget you". [Yeshiyahu/Isaiah 49:15]
In this statement we find Divine reassurance that the Shechinah has not abandoned Israel. Even if in rare situations a human mother may forget her child, this is not the case with the eternal and loyal love of the "Divine Mother" for Her children.
Rabbi Moshe Alshich -- known as "the Alshich" -- was a leading 16th century sage and biblical commentator who lived in Safed, a city in the Land of Israel. He was also known for his great knowledge and understanding of Kabbalah. In his commentary on the above verses from Isaiah, he offers another interpretation which states that Zion refers to the city of Jerusalem.
Alshich offers the following explanation of the dialogue between Zion and HaShem:
Before the destruction of Jerusalem -- when the Temple still stood -- Zion is compared to a baby within the womb. Just as the baby is surrounded by the stomach of the mother, so too Zion was surrounded by the Shechinah. After the destruction of the Temple, however, Zion feels like a baby that left the womb and is no longer surrounded by its mother, for the Shechinah no longer surrounds her. She therefore feels that the Shechinah has forgotten her, and she proclaims: "My Lord has forgotten Me".
(The Alschich cites the mystical teaching that the term "my Lord" refers to the Shechinah).
To this concern, the Compassionate One responds that just as a mother is still attached to her child even after it leaves the womb -- nursing it from her breasts -- so too Zion is still connected to the Shechinah. For the Shechinah never left the Western Wall, explains the Alshich, and in the above dialogue, She is telling Zion:
"You are still at My bosom and at My side".
In the following verses, the Compassionate One continues to offer words of hope and consolation to the city and the land of Zion:
"Behold, I have engraved you upon My palms; your walls are before Me always. Your children will hasten (to return), and your ruiners and your destroyers will leave you. Raise your eyes all around and see: They have all gathered, they have come to you. As I live, says HaShem, you will surely clothe yourself with all of them like jewelry and adorn yourself like a bride. As for your ruins and desolations and your devastated land -- you will now become crowded with inhabitants, and those who would devour you will be distanced. The children from whom you had been bereaved will yet say in your ears, 'The place is too crowded for me; move aside for me that I may dwell'. And you will say in your heart, 'Who has begotten me these? For I have been bereaved and alone, an exile and a wanderer -- so who has reared these? Behold, I had been left by myself; where are these from?' For thus said My Lord, HaShem: Behold I will raise My hand toward nations, and I will hoist My banner towards peoples, and they will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders". [Yeshiyahu/Isaiah 49:16-22]
Each Shabbos morning, we read a portion from one of the books of the Prophets, and in the spirit of the above prophecy from Isaiah, the following blessing is said after the reading:
"Blessed are You, HaShem, Who causes Zion to rejoice with her children".
Shalom from Yerushaliyim,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
Readers are welcome to re-publish this Root & Branch Information Service story in newspapers and magazines, post it on web sites, bulletin boards and news groups or redistribute it through email lists PROVIDED THATthey include the following notice --
Reprinted from the Root & Branch Information Services
NOTE FROM EDDIE:
From an Orthodox Jewish perspective, when the two houses of Israel were exiled the SHECHINAH went into exile with them. However, at the dawn of the Messianic Era when BOTH houses of Israel (house of Joseph / Ephraim AND the house of Judah) are reunited (Ezekiel 37:15-28) that the reunification will be linked with the prophecy of Micah 7:15 and the return of the Shechinah.
END OF NOTE
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