What is the meaning of Shechina?

Question: Can you please counsel me on the subject of Shekina?

Answer: The concept of Shechina (as the Hebrew word is more commonly spelled in English) is simple, yet very deep. Also, as is generally true in the explanations of spiritual matters, it can be discussed from the different perspectives that the Torah sources provide, with each one adding to the understanding of the subject. The list below briefly covers a range of perspectives on the subject of G-d’s Shechina. (Note: if you are doing cold searching on the Internet, you will also get all sorts of wrong interpretations that are off-track, “new age,” misinformed, etc.)

– Shechina is the Hebrew term for the aspect of G-dliness that is able to be revealed in the created realms. (The created realms are the spiritual worlds and the physical world.)

– The word comes from the Hebrew word “shochayn,” which means “to dwell.” In other worlds, is the aspect of G-dliness that is invested within the created realms.

– The G-dly creative force and life-force that sustains the existence of every spiritual or physical creation comes from G-d, and each creation receives an amount of creative force and life-force that is appropriate for its individual existence. This measured creative force and life-force  is apportioned by G-d to each creation through His aspect of Shechina.

– G-d brings about creation through His “Divine speech,” as in Genesis ch. 1. Thus, when G-d said “Let there be light,” light came into existence. When He said, “Let there be a firmament of the Heavens,” the Heavens and the angels came into existence. G-d’s Divine speech, through which He reveals Himself, is the creative force and life-force for all creation. Thus G-d’s Divine speech is an aspect of Shechina.

– G-d made the creation so He could be the King over all the creations in general, and specifically over mankind. G-d’s attribute of Kingship (i.e. Sovereignty) presupposes that there will be creations to be a Sovereign over, and all of the infinite number of creations are brought about through the spiritual creative forces that we call G-d’s “speech,” through which G-d reveals and expresses His Sovereignty. Thus G-d’s Divine attribute of Sovereignty (Kingship) is an aspect of Shechina.

– When we speak of G-d’s attributes, we are referring to the different essential ways through which G-d interacts with His creation. There are three attributes of G-dly intellect – Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge – and seven G-dly emotive attributes: Kindness, Judgment, Mercy, Victory, Splendor and Kingship. In bringing Divine influence “down” into the creation (from levels that are more spiritual to levels that are less spiritual), some of the Divine attributes mainly receive influence from higher spiritual levels, and some of them mainly transmit influence to lower spiritual levels.

– The descriptive term assigned to the Divine attributes which mainly transmit influence to lower levels is “masculine,” since they are mainly the providers of influence. The descriptive term assigned to the Divine attributes which mainly receive influence from higher levels is “feminine,” since they are mainly recipients of influence. The Shechina (Kingship) attribute receives influence from all of the other Divine attributes (as, by analogy, human speech receives its influence and form of expression from the attributes of a person’s intellect and emotions). Therefore G-d’s Shechina is classified as a “feminine” attribute.

What I have explained thus far is not Kabbala. It is a basic and brief explanation of the Divine attributes and the creative process. Authentic Kabbala sources delve into more esoteric details of manifestations and mechanisms of G-dliness within the spiritual realms, and speak about them in cryptic terms using physical metaphors. This is an advanced field of Torah study, and other than a simplified overview, it is appropriate to be taught only by advanced and reliable Jewish Torah scholars. The parts that are relevant for Noahides are explanations of the Unity of the One G-d, and that is explained in better ways by Chassidic teachings. (On the other hand, “new-age kabbala” presents misleading and false distortions which are being marketed to the public, that focus not on the inner meanings but instead on the metaphors, and it portrays the metaphors as having an actual and independent reality.)