Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daughters of Wisdom

As those who have read my book The Divine Feminine know I have been a devotee of the Divine Mother for many years. I speak with Her almost daily as part of my regular spiritual practice. I did not seek out this spiritual path, it was thrust upon me, but I find it deeply moving, comforting, and rich with wisdom and insight. My understanding of the Mother comes through the Hebrew and Greek Wisdom Literature written by Jews over several centuries. Books like Proverbs, especially chapters 1-9, Ecclesiastes, Job, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Pirke Avot, and the Gospel of Thomas.

Each year for the past few years I have had the honor of spending time at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT. Wisdom House is the spiritual retreat center of the Daughters of Wisdom, an order of nuns founded in the 1700s. In between my teaching duties, I spend time reading, walking the center's labyrinth, and sitting in the chapel and gazing upon the most astounding statues of Mother Mary I have ever seen. I recite the Hail Mary for a while and then simply settle into quite. Her love for me (and the world) is palpable.

Of course this is not the usual confession a rabbi makes, but then I haven't been a usual rabbi for a long time. For me Mary is one of many incarnations (Western and Eastern) of Lady Wisdom (Proverbs Cht. 8). I don't believe She is God in any dualistic sense. God is Reality, embracing and transcending all things, so She is no less God than you and I are God. Indeed Proverbs tells us Wisdom is the Daughter of God, and not God in the absolute sense. I understand Wisdom (Chochma in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek) as the equivalent of the Tao, the way God is God in the world of form. Knowing Her is knowing the way of things and how to live in harmony with them.

Anyway, I have just returned from Wisdom House, and want to thank the sisters for making me feel welcome. I also want to encourage you to check out their website (www.wisdomhouse.org) and their order, and consider attending one or more of their programs. I will be back at Wisdom House in August of 2011 to offer a series of talks on Jesus as a Jewish Wisdom Sage.


Raksha said...

Absolutely beautiful post! I didn't know there was an order of nuns called Wisdom's Daughters. Of course I don't need to tell you that Wisdom has many daughters who aren't nuns, and likewise many sons who aren't monks. It stands to reason, of course, because she has been around before Christianity, before monasticism, and as the book of Proverbs tells us, from the beginning of Creation itself.

An aside to someone: All right, already! I can take a hint--no need to lay it on with a trowel. Seeing as Rabbi Rami's new post is the FOURTH hint within the space of a few hours, you must think I'm being even more stubborn and recalcitrant than usual. I'll write that blog post I've been putting off with no further procrastination--well, not a whole lot more anyway.

Love and Light,

Raksha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raksha said...

Rabbi Rami: One more thing, because it's really been bothering me and I can't make any sense out of it. Last night I read in my e-mail from Tikkun that Anat Hoffman, a leader of Women of the Wall, was arrested for carrying a Torah scroll near the Western Wall, the presumption being that she was going to read from the Torah. The e-mail further explains that in recent years, the haredim have been treating the Western Wall as a de facto ultra-Orthodox shul, and the Israeli government has been going along with this.

I won't get into the manifest injustice of this, or ask you whatever happened to "a house of prayer for all the people" since your feelings on that particular subject are no doubt the same as mine. What I don't understand is the mindset of the haredim themselves. If they really believe what they say they do, that even the ruins of the Temple are the abode of the Shekhina--why doesn't their alleged reverence for the Mother carry over to her earthly image or embodiment? Surely a Jewish woman carrying a Torah scroll fits that profile if anything does, and yet the haredim continue to express their so-called piety by and restricting the devotions of Jewish women at what is considered the holiest shrine in the entire Jewish world. And not only restricting them, but humiliating and abusing them at every opportunity as well.

I can't believe that if they really had slightest awareness of the Shekhina, they could not be so actively hostile to "kol isha." I have to believe it has become something they pay lip service to out of habit, but they haven't actually felt her reality in years. Either that or "the feminine principle" has become purely an abstract concept to them, and has nothing to do with actual real-life women any more.

Previous comment removed because of a posting error.

Love and Light,

D.R. Odekirk said...

Thank you Rabbi. Posts like this one are the best. Peace!

Rabbi Rami said...

Just a response to Linda's post. Judaism in Israel is a political animal controlled by the orthodox. The government funds only orthodox Judaisms, and as long as the orthodox political parties vote with the ruling administration that administration will allow them to get away with almost anything. Right now they are again seeking to disenfranchise non-orthodox Jews. Israel is a democracy, but that is no hedge against limited theocracy. It is secularism not democracy that protects religious freedom. Except in France. So forget counting on secularism; there is no hope at all.

Raksha said...

Re "Judaism in Israel is a political animal controlled by the orthodox. The government funds only orthodox Judaisms, and as long as the orthodox political parties vote with the ruling administration that administration will allow them to get away with almost anything."

Rabbi Rami: Thanks for your reply, and I think you're absolutely right. I had a long phone conversation with my son on this same topic about a week ago. He is very down on Israel's parliamentary system and prefers a two-party system like we have here in the U.S. for precisely that reason.

What he means is that in order to form a majority, in order to even HAVE a government in Israel, a major party such as Likud has to form a coalition with a number of small, fanatical far-right and often racist religious parties. As much as I dislike Likud, at least they are a secular nationalist party--very much the lesser of two evils in this case.

The system gives the insane religious right a lot more clout than they could possibly have otherwise. After all, they don't represent the majority of secular Israelis, who resent their stranglehold on religious and social life even more than I do, since they actually have to live with it.

I know I couldn't live with it. I have never had any real desire to make aliyah because I know I could never live under a theocracy, not even a Jewish theocracy...maybe especially not a Jewish theocracy.

Re "It is secularism not democracy that protects religious freedom." I couldn't agree more.


Peter Schogol said...

Apropos of Wisdom, I note that you are coming out with your third book on Ecclesiastes. I'm presently reading Lloyd Geering's look at Koheleth called "Such Is Life." I recommend it.

It will be great to see where your thinking on Ecclesiastes has come to!