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Why Don't We Call G-d Mother?

Why Don't We Call G-d Mother?

Is G-d masculine or feminine?



Why do we call G‑d "Father" on Rosh Hashanah? Why not "Mother"?


To the Jewish mind, G‑d is both here and beyond here at once. Philosophers call that immanence and transcendence. Many of them say that He can't do both at once, but we say who are you philosophers to tell G‑d what He can be and what He can't be?

When we refer to G‑d's presence within our world, giving life to all things, then She is the Shechinah. When we refer to G‑d's transcendence beyond this world, we call Him "The Holy One, blessed be He." G‑d does not change or have parts, G‑d forbid. Both are the same one and singular G‑d, just looking at that G‑d from different angles. From one angle you see a modality of being deeply involved and immanently there; from another angle you see Him in a modality of being absolutely beyond all things and transcendent even of existence itself.

In our prayers, we—all of us together as one—take the role of the Shechinah petitioning the Holy One, blessed be He. In a way, G‑d is speaking to Himself. That is why we ask at the beginning of the Amidah, "G‑d, open my lips so that my mouth may speak Your praises." We are asking G‑d to speak to Himself through us. We can't pray to Him as He is the Shechinah because it's His Shechinah that's doing the praying.

Our mitzvahs, study and prayer unite these two aspects of G‑d into a perfect whole. Studying Torah is a way for G‑d's transcendence to enter our world. Our prayers are a way that His presence in our world reaches upward towards transcendence. Each mitzvah in its particular way creates a harmony between the two aspects.

Much of the Zohar is dedicated to illustrating this concept. The prophets also allude to it in their ubiquitous use of the husband/wife metaphor. In many prayer books you will find instructions to say before a certain mitzvah, blessing or prayer, "For the sake of the union of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shechinah, in the name of all Israel."

This is also the meaning of the phrase, "On that day, G‑d will be One and His name will be One." Of course, He was already One before the world got started and remained One after creating it. We are talking here of how the created beings of His world tune into that oneness, by discovering a harmony between the two aspects that we have to deal with. G‑d will be One is about how He is way beyond our world extending into how He is present in our world. His name will be One is about how He presents Himself here revealing a harmony with how He is totally beyond.

I better stop before things get totally foncusicated. These are things discussed at length in many profound treatises on Kabbalistic thought. If you want some reading material, let me know and I'll plug you in.

Have a great, sweet year in 5770!

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Avie October 23, 2014

God as Male or Female Hi,
Thanks for your very informative article.
I am having difficulty applying the concepts to the tefilla. I get that male and female are attributes, I don't get how they are applied in the davening.

There are many places where it seems that the the masculine and feminine form of Hashem's name are interchangeable.
For example, in Modim we say Modim anachnu loch, sheata. We use the feminine and then the masculine in two consecutive words. There are many other examples not just in tefilla, but also in the Torah.
I'd appreciate any further insight you can provide on this subject.
Thanks Reply

Anonymous Baltimore, MD September 24, 2012

The Single "Mudball" The term Hermorphodite fits well here. The Image Hashem replicated of him/her self from the clay of the Earth was the combined reproduction of how The Creator envisioned the Devine rerflection. The molded Single Mudball originally was Male and Female. The surgery Adam underwent resulted in Eve's separated existence as WOMBMAN; as Adam stated after his surgical recovery, "Bone of My Bone, Flesh of My Flesh Thy name shall be Wombman." So, can you give your opinion as to why Eve found the Serpent so attractive to have allowed It to Beguile her? Are was she sudduced first by the Seprent? Wasn't Caine actually the get of the Serpent and cosidered himself a more superior lifeform than Abel? Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 12, 2010

There is no such word as.. foncusicated. I looked it up in Google and also in the Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Deluxe Edition. Did you make up this word. Rabbi I assume you mean complicated. Reply

Steven J. Gold Decatur, GA October 11, 2010

Male and Female Divinity I accept the description of Divine Male and Female attributes. Such a conception is found in many spiritual traditions. However, I have difficulty accepting the further extrapolation of that conception as the basis for male references used almost exclusively in traditional Jewish liturgy. Many prayers and blessings make reference to the activities of the Divine in the relative material world of the Feminine and express thankfulness for those activities, but still use male designations. This is a sign of male, patriarchal domination, not deep spirituality. It is similar to the explanations/rationalizations that maintain that women should not be allowed on the bimah. Acknowledgement of the exquisite role of the Divine Feminine should be granted equal time in all aspects of life, including liturgy and sacred texts. It takes two to tango. Reply

Zoe May 3, 2010

G-d's traits G-d is a spirit form. What makes someone a male or female is the body. G-d has no body. Good way you explain G-d's feminine side and male side in character. For G-d is neither man or woman. Reply

Anonymous Palm Springs, California October 25, 2009

Shechinah REALLY liked the way you explained prayer! Also, your explanation of the meaning of the phrase, "On that day, G‑d will be One and His name will be One." Not foncusicating at all! Reply

Rebekah Hollywood, Florida October 11, 2009

Is Hashem male or female, both or neither? In the end, this discussion is only about the limitations of the human mind. I can call G-d whatever I want while I am praying, and it does not change the Neshoma essence of G-d. "I am what I will be." Would you agree? Reply

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