The Divine Indwelling of the Shekhinah

As I prepare myself for Shabbat, I enjoy using the time to commune with God. Usually, I imagine myself as a being surrounded by God’s light, the mystical light called, “Shekhinah,” “The Indwelling One.” Prayer is all about transparency; it is about being honest with one’s own soul and with God. Prayer is not so much about “speaking to God,” it is more about listening to God. In the silence of our being–the Shekhinah dwells and speaks. I often like to write down the words that I imagine Her saying to me. In moments of peaceful solace, comes a radiance where the Shekhinah speaks to the human heart–without words, without sound—but with a serene Presence.   The German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that God speaks through the voice of conscience—and I think he is correct.

Note that I am speaking in anthropomorphic terms. God really doesn’t have a gender, I am merely using feminine imagery to prove the point that theological language about God is always mediated through culture.

When basking in Her Presence, all I perceive are images that flutter across the horizon of my mind. She speaks in the language of feeling, intuition, and conscience. One cannot help but perceive a luminescence in prayer.

In my meditations, I experience wonderment at the uniqueness of our nature. Despite being driven to survive for survival’s sake, we intuitively suspect and know that there is something more. Simply put: We do not live to merely consume. As antinomous beings, it is easy to get confused by questions we cannot solve. Yet, we are paradoxically capable of asking ultimate questions. I think we possess a soul-breath that is puzzled by the uniqueness of our Being; a soul-breath capable of measuring all things; our  soul-breath sometimes imagines that we are all alone.

For me, God speaks through music. Even from the first cosmic moment when Shekhinah began Her song. We are a part of the Divine song, as we all are. Even the discordant notes have a place in the heavenly symphony. On Shabbat, more so than other days, the liturgy stresses that we are all part of the great web of life. To damage one part, is to the damage the Whole. There is a oneness and harmony to nature that sings out in prayer. “The soul of every living being shall bless Your Name, LORD our God; the spirit of all flesh shall always glorify and exalt Your remembrance, our Sovereign.”

Jewish mystics sometimes speak about a Divine contraction called, “Tsimtsum.” God creates the space for a world to have and enjoy its own independent sense of self. But our salvation comes when we experience our own tsimtsum, when we pull away from the egoic universe that exists within our soul, to create a God-space for the Shekhinah to dwell. Consciousness expands this time, but not from the Shekhinah, but from within us.

Poets say that the Divine Indwelling never occurs within a temporal space, but within the “heart.” For if She is not alive in your heart, then She is in no-place at all. Although Her Divine light suffuses all Reality, it is in the human heart She has yet to become manifest.

The Sufi poet and mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan writes about the nature of the spiritual heart:

FROM A mystical point of view, personality is formed around the heart. For a materialist the heart is the piece of flesh hidden in the breast, but for the mystic the heart is the center of the person round which the personality is formed. Consciously or unconsciously man loves the word ‘heart’, and if we were to ask a poet to leave out that word and write his poems without using it, he would never satisfy himself or others. Few people think of this; yet the poets who have most appealed to humanity, have used the word ‘heart’ most. For what is man? Man is his heart. A dead heart means a dead man, a living heart a living man. People look for wonder-workings and surprises, for phenomena of all kinds. Yet the greatest phenomenon, the greatest surprise, and the greatest wonder is to be found in one’s heart. If there is anything that can tune man to the highest pitch, that can tune the strings of his soul to the right note, it is only by the tuning of the heart.

In short, the Shekhinah speaks within the silence of the day, whenever we create the space for Her to enter. She says, “Learn to transform your darkness, transcend your nature, and I will be there to meet you with each act of love and compassion.”

(To be continued)

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