Attributes of the Sacred Feminine

 

The idea of a feminine deity, while deeply resonating with my soul, took a long time to get used to, from an intellectual stand-point. All of a sudden, the simple idea of “One God” was blown out of the water. My fundamental, childhood belief in monotheism now started to be questioned, and I wasn’t sure what to do with that.

After several months of exploring and wrestling with this on my own, I asked my rabbi if a feminine deity meant that Judaism ascribes to polytheism.

He chuckled.

I relaxed.

He didn’t squirm.

I relaxed even more.

He responded by acknowledging that there are plenty of arguments to be made in favor of polytheism due to the many names of God/Goddess.

“They very well could be describing many deities,” he said, “and, in fact, the Torah doesn’t teach that there aren’t other gods or goddesses…just that this is the only one that Jews are to worship.”

I sat up startled. There are other gods and goddesses? And the Torah admits that? Where?!

” However,” he continued, “in light of the Shma (Hear O Israel, our God is One), one might consider that these are all aspects of Divinity…that the Highest Power is a balance of Masculine and Feminine and many other attributes that we only know how to experience separately.”

“I need some time to think about that,” I replied, stunned and overwhelmed…and our study session ended.

That Shabbas, while talking with another very learned man about this topic, he told me about the Thirteen Attributes of God, and to look into those to see if they provided any clues for me. While there are many lists of what these thirteen attributes are, this is the list of the most commonly associated attributes:

  1. Adonai — compassion before a person sins;
  2. Adonai — compassion after a person has sinned;
  3. El — mighty in compassion to give all creatures according to their need;
  4. Rachum — merciful, that humankind may not be distressed;
  5. Chanun — gracious if humankind is already in distress;
  6. Erech appayim — slow to anger;
  7. Rav chesed — plenteous in mercy and abundant in goodness;
  8. Emet — truth in integrity and speaking truth in love;
  9. Notzer chesed laalafim — keeping mercy unto thousands, or remembering the good deeds of the ancestors for a thousand generations;
  10. Noseh avon — forgiving iniquity, or bearing with indulgence the failings of humanity;
  11. Noseh peshah — forgiving transgression, springing from malice and rebellion against Divinity;
  12. Noseh chatah — forgiving sin, or forgiving humanity’s shortcomings due to heedlessness and error;
  13. Venakeh — and pardoning those who deserve punishment or consequence.

I asked him why thirteen. He didn’t know.

“But,” he told me, “I do know that it must always be thirteen. Not more. Not fewer.”

“Why?” I asked. “What does it mean?”

“It’s a mystery,” he said with a smile.

He reminded me of this mystery several months later, after many more similar conversations. It was my last Shabbas service at that synagogue before moving back to California.

With much urgency, he pulled me aside and said, “These are the most important words I can think to share with you as we part: Keep your eyes open.”

Puzzled, I asked, “Why? What am I to see? What am I missing?”

“Just watch,” he replied, gave me a hug, and was gone.

Now, several years later, I look at this list with an added dimension. While there are many debates as to the gender of each of these attributes or names of Divinity, some being feminine and some masculine, what really matters is the blending…the resulting whole thirteen. I now know the significance of it…it is the number of the Sacred Feminine.

Advertisements

Meeting Her

 

 

“When did you first learn about the Sacred Feminine?”

I love this question…mostly because it doesn’t have a simple answer…like most things in life.

As a child, I was exposed to many Judaic ideas through the lens of a conservative, Sabbath-keeping, evangelical, Christian denomination. As a result, my concept of Divinity was that it was singular (yet comprised of three), and that it was male. The idea of Jesus being the one and only Son of God was hard for me to fathom, because I couldn’t understand how life could be created without a feminine. When I voiced this, I was told that God had attributes of both male and female. I responded by asking why God was called “He” rather than “It.” I was then told to be quiet and stop asking such silly questions.

A few years later, in high school, I overheard a conversation between two men in which one was teasing the other about the nature of God.

“Well,” the teasing man said, “some people believe that the name ‘El Shaddai‘ is feminine.”

Oh, what hogwash,” the other man said. “I bet some feminist broad made that up.”

I stopped, sat down…stunned and in shock. What if God was in fact a woman?! What if, all these years I’d been singing Amy Grant‘s song, I was singing to a woman rather than a man? That changed everything! Didn’t it? I had no idea. What would it mean to have a feminine deity rather than a masculine one? Were they different? If so…how?

Twenty years later, I sat in an outdoor amphitheatre, surrounded by willow trees, lush greenery, wildflowers, a pond with blooming lotus and a fountain…and several other people. I had finally connected with the Jewish community, and ventured out for my first Friday night service. As the sun drifted to the horizon, the rabbi invited us to sing a song, welcoming Shechinah, the Sabbath Bride…the Queen of Heaven. The Shechinah, the rabbi explained, is the feminine aspect of Divinity.

Again, I sat stunned. It’s true! I thought…astonished…then ecstatic. There really is a feminine god…or goddess. AND, if Shabbat is feminine, THAT would explain why the Jewish women light the candles on Friday night in “Fiddler on the Roof!” AND, if Shechinah is feminine, THAT means that the divinity in the tabernacle in the desert for forty years was feminine!

I still had no idea what it meant to have a feminine deity…but I knew it was important. I knew that at the very least, I, a woman, finally had a place in religion…and I didn’t have to pretend to be a man in order to access God…or live in society. All of a sudden, my value changed. I was equal to men…because my deities were equal.