Nehunya ben HaKanah, a sage and mystic of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, while writing of the Song of Songs, spoke of “the inner, hidden essence of the mundane world, which is the Shekhinah” (translation by Aryeh Kaplan).
This is a well-known concept, but something in this simple sentence struck me anew. It is the hidden quality of Shekhinah, her very immanence, all-pervasive yet concealed, that captivates my imagination. Everywhere and at all times, the very stuff of which the material world is made, she nonetheless demands a particular mode of observation in order to discern her presence.
Above all, she may only be discerned with the heart. The indwelling of Spirit in phenomena cannot be observed with the intellect or by use of scientific instruments. It is only through love: love of life, of that which generates and maintains us in existence, that we are empowered to perceive the ageless Wisdom, the source of our being.
Small wonder, then, that ben KaKanah wrote in this context of the Song of Songs, that wonderful, poetic verse with its erotic imagery. The mystic understands that the love affair between the One and the individual is deeply embedded in Eros, when understood as the desire for union, for wholeness, for celebration of our life energy. It is the hiddenness of the Divine, requiring us to search in order to immerse ourselves in the ocean of immanence, that is the key.
Shekhinah is courteous and does not impose herself upon us. It is for us to seek her out with loving heart. Until then, she remains the “inner, hidden essence of the mundane world.”
Mandala by Angela Moore 2013