The Jewish Spirit Journal
A Journal of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality
Vol. 1, No. 6 January 2003


Is God our Mother?

Rabbi Eliezer Papo in his famous book Pele Yo'aitz speaks of a person's "Father and Mother, the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shechinah." (Pele Yo'aitz, p.303)

The Rebbes of Komarna and Shpitevka saw visions of the Shechinah in the form of a woman. (Ma'aseh HaShem HaShalem, p.121, #17; p.138, #16)

"Rebbe Tzvi Hersh the "Servant" of Rimanov would wake up at midnight for Tikkun Hatzot [the Midnight Lamentation Service], wash his hands, and with a powerful loud voice cry out from the depths of his pure heart, 'Mama Rachel!' [The hasidic book that records this anecdote explains parenthetically: our mother Rachel is an epithet for the holy Shechinah]. Immediately, the Rebbe would then jump out of bed and with bitter cries begin to mourn the suffering of the Shechinah and the exile of the Jewish people." (Kohen Gadol Mesharait, p.154)

"During sleep, Rebbe David Biderman of Lelov-Jerusalem would burst out with longing for the holy Shechinah and call out in a voice suffused with love and yearning, 'Mama! Mama!'" (Tiferet Beit David, p.105)

Rebbe David was constantly calling out during the day to his divine Mother but quietly so no one could hear him. At night, while asleep, he would similarly call out, but then he could not conceal his cries of longing and he could be overheard.

Calling out to the Shechinah as "Mother" seems to have been a tradition among the tzaddikim in the Lelover hasidic dynasty as we see in the following anecdotes about Rebbe David's grandson.

When deep in trance, Rebbe Moshe Mordechai Biderman of Lelov-Jerusalem would call out yearningly countless times to the holy Shechinah, "Mama, Mama, Mama!" (Moshe Ish HaElohim, vol.1, pp.206, 247)

About the Rebbe of Lelov-Jerusalem on the night of Shabbat: "The Rebbe was enveloped with divine awe and exalted holiness as he conducted his table, divorced from materiality, absorbed in the upper worlds, cut off totally from everything happening around him. Everyone felt how his soul longed to cleave to its Creator. . . . Countless times, when the yearnings of his soul burst out from his inner being, he was heard moaning in longing and craving, 'Mama, Mama, Mama.'" (Moshe Ish HaElokim, vol.1, p.206)

Another passage describes the Rebbe on the night the Six Day War broke out: "The beit midrash was darkened because of the blackout, all the windows covered over with strips of tape for their length and breadth. We stood trembling with fear," said one of those present. "The Rebbe entered and stood at the head of the table. His appearance aroused awe. For a long while he cried out, his voice breaking with d'vekut [devotional God-consciousness], 'Mama, Mama, Mama!'" "We palpably felt," said a hasid who was present, "how the Rebbe was pleading before his Maker like a child before its mother for the Jewish people." (Moshe Ish HaElokim, vol.1, p.247)

Every time the Rebbe finished the blessing over the moon, he called out longingly, "Have a good month, holy Shechinah!" (Moshe Ish HaElokim, vol.2, p.93)

One of the Rebbe's intimates, a hasid who was with the Rebbe once at the Western Wall [of the Temple], turned his ear to hear the Rebbe's prayer. The Rebbe whispered, "My Sister, my Beloved! The time has come to speed the redemption!" (Moshe Ish HaElokim, vol.2, p.93) This anecdote tells us that the Rebbe was relating to God, to the Shechinah, as to a female beloved, using endearments found in the Song of Songs.

The Rebbe was once traveling to Hebron, to prostrate on the graves of the ancestors [patriarchs and matriarchs] who are buried in the Cave of Machpelah. Along the way, the Rebbe instructed to go first to the tomb of our Mother Rachel saying in the name of his grandfather, Rebbe David of Lelov, "Every child who wants to get his father to do something, first calls his mother to help him." ... A number of times a year the Rebbe visited our Mother Rachel's Tomb. His soul was bound to this holy place by special ties. He would stand before the tomb's grave marker and pray with deep feeling that came from a broken heart, pleading like a child pleads with its Mother, that She have compassion on her dear children who are suffering greatly and that She arouse heaven to speed our redemption ... (Moshe Ish HaElokim, vol.2, p.105)

It is clear from this description that the Rebbe was praying not to the biblical Rachel but to Rachel as the kabbalistic epithet and symbol for the Shechinah. (I would greatly like to spiritually understand the deeper meaning of the Rebbe's prayers to the Shechinah as Mother and his comment that one first solicits the Mother's help before approaching the Father. If you feel you have an insight, please contact me.)

The Midrash says that at the Red Sea God was like a black-haired young warrior and at Mount Sinai like a white-haired elderly teacher-- yet, beneath all differences of appearance, He is one and the same God. Why then should anyone be afraid to speak of God as our Mother as well as our Father?

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Copyright 2004-2005, Yitzhak Buxbaum. All rights reserved.